Does it matter if a protagonist is a man or woman? If not, David Lindsay-Abaire will undoubtedly make his a woman.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Rabbit Hole half-jokingly admits this is partially due to his mom, a “titanic personality” and “incredible storyteller,” who ends up, in some form or other, in each of his plays – or at least according to his sister she does. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he also knows dozens of fantastic actresses he wants to write for.
Last night, TCG presented “An Evening with David Lindsay-Abaire” at New York City’s Drama Book Shop. In conversation with Manhattan Theatre Club’s Artistic Producer, Mandy Greenfield, the affable playwright openly discussed his work and artistic process and gamely donned a Southie accent to read an excerpt from his Tony-nominated Good People (Of course, he’s from Boston, so the accent, if not the gender, wasn’t much of a stretch).
Turns out Lindsay-Abaire had been hearing one thing over and over again: Why do Brits consistently grapple with the issue of class, but American writers so rarely do? Challenge accepted, the female-friendly playwright naturally chose to explore America’s hot-button issue through the lens of the hardnosed, down-on-her-luck Margie.
Margie: That’s all it took – a piece of fucking candy brittle and I was out of a job again. And that’s how it always is. If it’s not the candy brittle then it’s Joyce’s medication, or my phone getting cut off, or Russell Gillis’s breaking in and stealing my goddamn microwave! And you wanna tell me about choices? While you sit up here practically breaking your arm patting yourself on the back for all you accomplished. Lucky you. You made some wise choices. But you’re wrong if you think everyone has ’em.
It’s not very surprising that the playwright has an affinity for writing complex, strong women (and no coincidence that a large part of last night’s audience consisted of women in their 20s and 30s): Marsha Norman, one of his mentors at Juilliard, pushed him to write about that which terrified him most. The result: Rabbit Hole, a heartbreaking, penetrating rumination on the loss of a child, which, in edition to its many awards, also garnered accolades for Cynthia Nixon and Nicole Kidman’s portrayals of Becca, the central, grieving mother.
Becca: Mom? Does it go away? This feeling. Does it ever go away?
Nat: No. I don’t think it does. Not for me it hasn’t…It changes though…The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under. And carry around – like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in awhile, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh right. That.” Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda…Not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is…
Of course, Lindsay-Abaire’s repertoire doesn’t consist solely of naturalistic drama – the good-humored playwright began his career with absurdist comedies like Wonder of the World, Fuddy Meers and Kimberly Akimbo. And, having contributed the librettos to High Fidelity and Shrek the Musical, he’s eager to again take on the high level of collaboration that the musical form affords – only this time, he’d like an entirely original musical, please.
No matter what his next project, it’s fairly safe to assume there’ll be at least one more substantial female character for actresses the world over to tackle. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Many thanks to Mandy Greenfield for moderating and Abi, Sean and the rest of the Drama Book Shop staff for helping out and hosting this event! And, of course, a big thank you to tall those who came out!
To further explore some of David Lindsay-Abaire’s plays, please check out the TCG Bookstore.