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A Perfect Relationship|
by Doric Wilson
June 18, 2000, revised June 1, 2007
People are forever eagerly offering writers their great idea for a play (which inevitably proves useless). Waiters have withheld my dinner, a doctor interrupted a medical procedure, strangers crawled out from under my bed; all insisting I listen. This is not how plays are written. Or it wasn’t until an afternoon in the late 1970s. I had started working on the play, had created Ward and Greg (named after my upstairs neighbors), but now was blocked. The plot was stalled in a snow storm (notice the symbolism).
I was interviewing a potential roommate to share my Bedford St. apartment, when I asked him why he wanted to move in. He answered, “You could write a play about what happened to me.” It seems his lover brought home a trick and they decided to live together, so they kicked him out, but the trick only wants the apartment, so it’s only a matter of time until the trick also evicts the lover. Three weeks later, the first draft of “A Perfect Relationship” was finished (the interviewee didn’t move in).
Ward and Greg were patterned on the hearty sportsmen seen in print ads for menthol cigarettes. That they were also gay was meant to catch a late 1970s audience off-guard. They were diametrically opposite to the prevalent stereotype. How was I to know they were about to become the stereotype. As Ward shares most of my worst traits, I tend to sympathize with Greg. Imagine my surprise when audiences generally side with Ward. I certainly wouldn’t want to live with me.
The character Muriel (written for Jane Lowry) proved a major problem. I had established that she could, and would, enter the play at will, and as Muriel was convinced the play was about her, she (the character) kept barging in and taking over. I couldn’t keep her off the stage. One set of producers optioned the play only so they could tie up the character of Muriel for a possible television spin-off.
Barry was based on an actual “interior architect” who specialized in “grey-beige” named Barry. After hearing a reading of “A Perfect Relationship,” and with a clear view of his own self-interest, he asked that he be allowed to design the sets. I reminded the director that my depiction of Barry was fairly astute. I was ignored, the week of dress rehearsal, Barry got an invitation to Mardi Gras and the play opened set-less. I was lucky to see the late Adam Caparell (the best male-identified actor to work in gay theater) play the definitive Barry. (That is, until Kevin Held played the part in the 2003 TOSOS II revival.)
After the Glines showcase, there was much talk that “A Perfect Relationship” would cross over to the professional mainstream. It was the first workshop of a play with a gay theme that had agents submitting their male client list for consideration. The producers were interested in the Lucille Lortel Theater on Christopher St. until the self-hating gay manager refused to even read the script, insisting there was no audience for “gay entertainments” in Greenwich Village. It seems a little pointless protesting Dr. Laura when our worst adversaries most often are us. Guess I’ll never see my name on a bronze plaque under the Lortel marquee.