The 42nd Street WorkShop hopes audiences will "luv" three new one-acts by comic playwright Murray Schisgal, grouped together under the title, Slouching Toward The Millennium. The Off-Broadway Equity showcase runs June 5-29 at the company's space, 432 West 42nd St, (5th Floor).
With Millennium, Schisgal examines the battle of the sexes in his typically dark and humorous way. The plays' titles point to his skewed p.o.v.: The Consequences Of Goosing; The Cowboy, The Indian, And The Fervent Feminist and Sexaholics. Mirra Banks directs.
Best known as the author of Luv and the Dustin Hoffman starrer Jimmy Shine, Schisgal has even found a sexual metaphor for his work ethic. Describing himself as a "Broadway playwright who has turned to film in a big way," Schisgal also wrote, "The more I'm prevented from working in the theatre, the more I hunger for it. I am told by my critic friends that this sensation is not dissimilar to that of sexual impotence."
Schisgal's other plays include Twice Around The Park, a 1982 vehicle for Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson; The Old Jew, An American Millionaire, The Chinese, Dr. Fish, and All Over Town.
Starring in 42nd Street WorkShop's Slouching are Mike Jankowitz, Michelle Bouchard, Gerrianne Raphael, James DeMarse and Joanne Gibson. The company was founded by Bouchard, DeMarse and Sam Schacht, and has already tackled 200 works in progress in only two years. Schisgal is on the company's Board of Advisors, along with Joy Behar, Tom Dulac, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara and Israel Horovitz. Asked how he got involved with 42nd Street WorkShop, Schisgal told Playbill On-Line, "I asked them to have as a member of theirs David Cruz, a young actor who works for my company, Punch Productions. He's a great kid, very talented, and he's getting married tonight in the Bronx, I'm going to his wedding. So anyway, I knew Sam Schacht for a number of years. David became a member and started telling me about the work they did. I had couple of one-acters I wanted to see up, so we did a staged reading of the plays in February, and they went so well..."
42nd Street WorkShop has wonderful people...they do a staged reading every week. So I like what they're doing, and I just hope my one-acts retain some of the edge from my early work. I see so much theatre that, by my reckoning, is bland and ultimately without grit or edge. I want something more than that, so, for example, Sexaholics talks about sex addiction but does so with comic overtones."
Though Schisgal hasn't quite been in the public eye the way he was in the 1960s and 70s, when his plays were constantly on and Off-Broadway, that doesn't mean the prolific writer has gotten lazy. "I got a letter this week from from Applause Books," Schisgal said. "For the eighth time I'm getting a one-act in their Best Short Plays book. It's called Fifty Years Ago. Also, a new play called Play Time is being published by Dramatists Play Service next month. I'm doing a lot of screenplays, but I always keep a foot in the theatre." (That said, Schisgal's screenplay, Blouse Man, goes before the cameras July 14, to be directed by Tony Goldwyn.)
Older plays by Schisgal are also getting their due. A revival of The Chinese opened in Paris, June 4. And London's Germaine Street Theatre just ran a successful revival of Luv. "That show has always had a more consistent life in France than in this country," said Schisgal.
Asked if the one-acts of Slouching, which deal with issues of sexuality and male/female one-upmanship, harken back to themes in his older works, Schisgal answered, "I've done half a dozen things that deal with the same subject. I just sent my agent a new screenplay called, Call Me Lucky, which deals with things that were in my novel, Days And Nights Of A French Horn Player. Like a lot of my work, it has to do with finding a place in the sun, but comically. Even in my mature years I'm fascinated by that transition from growing out of fantasy into reality. I don't think there are that many ideas or notions in any writer's life that are endless. They repeat themselves in different configurations, yet they're the same focus, the same concerns. For me, a lot of it is an insistence on not growing up. Growing up is more destructive to the imagination than anything else. The refusal to be adult makes possible a life of artistic efforts."
For tickets ($12) and information on Slouching Toward The Millennium call (212) 695-4173.
--By David Lefkowitz