“I LIKE writing. It keeps my mind off grim subjects. It’s therapeutic in the same way a patient in an institution is given fingerpaints,” so said film maker, writer, actor, and playwright Woody Allen in a 2005 interview.
Allen is best known for his many classic films, but there are many strings to the gifted New Yorkers bow and it is often overlooked that he has also enjoyed success as a playwright with the Broadway plays Don’t Drink the Water (1966 ) and Play It Again, Sam (1969 ), as well as with several one-act plays, including Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block will make its Irish stage debut when Gocart Mozart theatre company perform it in the Town Hall Theatre studio from Monday November 29 to Friday December 3 at 8.30pm.
Writer’s Block is the overall title Allen gave to a trilogy of one act plays he wrote in the early noughties and directed for the New York stage in 2003.
Allen enthusiast and stage director Brendan Murray came across the published scripts while browsing in a bookstore in Dublin and thought one of the plays, Riverside Drive - featuring just three actors and a minimal set - could prove inexpensive, but also worthwhile to stage.
“I didn’t realise that he had written anything for the stage recently,” Brendan tells me during our Monday afternoon interview. “It’s classic Woody Allen, very funny, and I think there is a constituency out there for Woody Allen in Galway who might like to see his stage work.”
In Riverside Drive a man (played by Daniel Guinnane ) is sitting on a bench by a river, waiting for a woman who it transpires is not his wife. This is revealed to the audience by a hobo (Ros na Rún’s Fred McCloskey ), who happens upon the waiting man. Then the woman (Helen Gregg ) enters, revelations are made, and solutions to various problems have to be found.
“The play features many of the themes Allen has covered in his films in his own inimitable way,” says Brendan. “There is a line in the play where one character asks ‘What about your breakdown? What did your psychiatrist say?’ - it’s immediately assumed he’s seeing a psychiatrist - he replies ‘Stop’. ‘Stop?’she asks. ‘Yes, he said stop seeing my psychiatrist.’
“It’s musings on life, love, and psychosis with a twist at the end. You will leave with a smile on your face at the end, which in the current climate is no bad thing.”
The New York Times, in a review of the 2003 production of Writer’s Block said the play “sits dead centre in the Woody Allen universe, a New York City-centric place where beautiful young women are unaccountably attracted to much older men...where relatively affluent people grapple comically and paranoiacally with serious questions of love and lust, artistic and financial achievement, and the possibility of happiness given the inevitability of death.”
It is as good a summation of Allen’s work and preoccupations as you can get. Indeed, with the exception of recent films like Match Point (2005 ) and last year’s Vicky, Christina, Barcelona, Allen’s films are predominately set in New York, eg, Manhattan (1979 ) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1989 ), and feature a very pronounced and idiosyncratically New York and Jewish sense of humour.
Writer’s Block will retain the New York setting and vibe of Allen’s script and the New York mannerisms of speech.
“It’s idiomatically and eccentrically New York,” says Brendan. “He portrays wonderfully eccentric New York characters. We have three terrific actors for the play and they have worked hard to capture the rhythm, cadences, and idiosyncrasies of the speech patterns of the way Allen writes and that’s what will give it credence and creditability.”
Brendan is excited to be staging this work by one of the great comic writers and film makers of the last 50 years. He cites Annie Hall (1977 ) and Manhattan as his favourite Allen films. Above all, what is it about Allen’s work that attracts him most?
“He stimulates you intellectually with the cheapest gags in the world, yet he does challenge,” says Brendan. “He doesn’t use bad language. He doesn’t need to. I feel he made a conscious decision not to use bad language. His writing is so succinct and complete that it doesn’t need that extra emphasis.”
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie