Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Itamar Moses

So I just finished reading The Four of Us by Itamar Moses. Every once in a while I will go to the play section in a book store and I'll pick up a play by a playwright I've never heard of before. This is harder then it sounds. I dare you to go into a Barnes and Nobel or Borders and after sifting through the Shakespeare (if you can even find the "Drama" section) you may find up to 12 shelves full of a spattering of famous names and the latest edition of the play you already read or saw. Hidden with in are a few unknown names. I like to go to that section and buy those playwrights. I like to think that when they receive that check and the end of the month, they thank me. But, really, if they've reached the Barnes and Nobel shelves they don't need to.

Anyway, so I came across Itamar Moses during such a search. To my surprise, I actually found him in the "New Paperback" section. Someone who shelves the books must have been a drama major. Anyway, I picked it up without thinking about it, proud for my fellow playwright, and took it to the counter.

It was fair. No big deal. I look forward to a Bay Area company doing it soon (surly I wasn't the only one to see it) and then I'll see it and judge it that way. Really, it was alright. It didn't grab me. Two guys, both writers, sort of feeling out success and jealousy. There were some good monologues. On the whole...blah.

But...I think you'll find this Vanity Fair article about it most interesting:

March 25, 2008

Literary Feud Watch: Jonathan Safran Foer vs. Itamar Moses

4ofusA high-profile literary feud is playing itself out on the stage of the Manhattan Theatre Club, but will any of the reviewers realize it? Or is everyone too busy whistling Gypsy to notice that Itamar Moses’s new play, which opens tonight, is all about his friendship, or lack thereof, with erstwhile wunderkind-novelist Jonathan Safran Foer?

The play, titled The Four of Us (get it?), traces the fraught relationship between a young playwright named David and a young novelist named Benjamin. They meet at Musicians’ Camp when they’re 17, spend a few months together in Prague in their early 20s, and end up pursuing divergent destinies back in New York. Over dinner, Benjamin—the stand-in for Jonathan Safran Foer—confesses to the as-yet-unpublished David that his debut novel has just sold for $2 million. “Are you fucking serious?” David blurts out, after spitting water all over his friend. “How on God’s green earth did such a thing take place?”

Oh, it’s no big deal, Benjamin explains: “that’s everything together, that’s with international rights … plus the film rights.”

David twists himself into a pretzel to conceal his envy, then finally voices his concern that such a windfall might prove to be, well, “totally spiritually corrupting.”

For those of you who weren’t doing spit-takes of your own when this deal was actually announced, back in 2002, Foer reportedly got a $500,000 advance and a $925,000 paperback deal for his widely acclaimed first novel, Everything Is Illuminated—which actor Liev Schreiber directed for the screen, using a script he himself wrote.

Sure enough, Scene Two takes place inside the apartment of the actor who has optioned Benjamin’s book. The scene opens with David remarking, “I’ve never been in an apartment where the owner has so many pictures of his own face on the walls.” Ouch! After asking David to write up a treatment, the actor ends up directing the movie using his own screenplay. “Sorry about the [reviews] for the movie,” David later has the pleasure of telling Benjamin.

Foer and Schreiber (who could not be reached for comment) aren’t the only targets of Moses’s score-settling wrath. Charles Isherwood, the New York Times critic who halted Moses’s wunderkind momentum back in 2005 with a withering review of his play Bach at Leipzig, would seem to be the obvious target for lines like this one: “Okay, let’s be honest here, I mean, it’s not exactly like the people writing those reviews knew what the fuck they were talking about.”

Not long after those words are spoken, David catches Benjamin walking out of the play we’ve been watching. “How could you write about me?,” Benjamin demands.

David’s response says it all: “How could you not write about me?”

Update: Reached for comment, Foer denied that there is any bad blood between the two: “Itamar is one of my best friends, and is one of the best writers I know. His play is hilarious and great. I hope it’s bigger than The Lion King. Sorry I can’t be more feud like.”

Ok, so even the article isn't that interesting. It sums up the play really well, though. What is interesting is that I picked up the play and this article came out on the same day, but the two events are independent of each other. I would have picked up this play if I had seen it on the "Drama" shelf.

More interesting news:

Yahoo! News: Arts
Playbill - The Tony Award-honored Berkeley Repertory Theatre's 2008-09 season will include the world premiere of plays by Itamar Moses and Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl, artistic director Tony Taccone announced March 5.

I look forward to whatever comes out of the project with Berkeley rep, I also look forward to sing "The Four of Us" to give it a proper chance.


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