Volume 20, Number 41 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 23 - March 1, 2011
A PERFECT FUTURE
Written by David Hay
Directed by Wilson Milam
At the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce St.)
For tickets, call 212-239-6200
Photo by Richard Termine
L to R: Donna Bullock, Scott Drummond, Michael T. Weiss and Daniel Oreskes.
Once we were young, radical, beautiful and in love
Hay’s play contemplates marriage amidst political differences
BY JERRY TALLMER
Once upon a time they were young and beautiful and radical and in love, and if this sounds like “The Way We Were,” so be it. But now, though Natalie is still plenty radical — if a lot richer, and, if anything, even more beautiful — John is not. Maybe in fact, deep in the bones he never was.
Still and all, John and Natalie are still married after all these years, he as a commanding international businessman, she as a Lady Bountiful of the left — and now their comrade of the old angry 1970s back in Berkeley, dear passionate sensitive Elliot, has flown all the way from California to New York to extract from Natalie a rather large ($25,000) check to put toward the legal fees of a black revolutionist now much in the headlines.
John (Michael T. Weiss), Natalie (Donna Bullock) and Elliot (Daniel Oreskes), along with a young stud named Mark (Scott Drummond), are the four people who spend a long “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”-type Walpurgisnacht in “A Perfect Future.” These four folk certainly gulp down more expensive French wine (simulated, one trusts) than three or four “Virginia Woolfs” laid end to end to end.
And does playwright David Hay, a quiet Villager who lives a couple of blocks away from Washington Square, feel honored to be on deck at the historic Cherry Lane?
“Oh, absolutely,” he says.
If my mother were still alive, I would take her to see this play. “A marriage can survive any differences between the two people,” she used to say. “Any difference at all — except one. It cannot survive a political difference.” That’s “A Perfect Future” in a nutshell.
Well, she was gone before the world heard about James Carville, ultra Democrat, successfully married to Mary Matalin, ultra Republican. The exception that proves the rule.
“I was scared I’d find out what we’ve all just found out,” says Natalie at the turning point in Hay’s drama. “The man I’ve shared a bed with for twenty-nine years…you and I …no longer share the things that really matter…that have to matter.”
And her husband of 29 years — infuriated by the black-revolutionist cause to which she’s now consigning her largesse — puts paid to those 29 years with the filthiest racist word in the lexicon.
Hay wrote the first draft of “A Perfect Future” some six or seven years ago, and then set it aside while bringing forth “The Maddening Truth” — a sharp piece about war correspondent (and Hemingway wife) Martha Gellhorn that was done Off-Broadway at the Harold Clurman Theatre. Meanwhile “A Perfect Future” was what in theater they call “being workshopped.”
The “genesis” of the work, says its author, was the marriage of his own parents, which somehow survived the fact that his father was a “relatively liberal” Australian diplomat (also named David Hay), his mother a “Victorian conservative.”
It was, son David says, “shocking to find during the rehearsal process how much of myself there was in this thing, I’m not married, but I’m not without experience in relationships.”
He himself was born in Melbourne, though his speech is more British than Australian — more Leslie Howard than Rupert Murdoch — and he correctly describes himself as “relatively reticent.”
His own radicalism, such as it is, was nurtured at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, a good bit south of the Berkeley, Ca., that was in such an uproar in the early 1970s — the Berkeley that still unites this play’s Natalie and Elliot.
“I think I ought to tell you one more thing,” says Hay. “Looking out my window I can see where the Weathermen blew up that 11th Street townhouse in 1970.”
Just call it the past imperfect.