New Yorkers are not only constantly dramatizing their own already rather dramatic love lives, but also adore consuming dramatizations of other such love lives: see Sex and the City, Girls, Hitch, Gossip Girl, Forty Days of Dating, and so on and so forth. Now, Horse Trade Theater Group brings you the rare opportunity to see some disastrous romantic escapades (not your own!) LIVE, at their production of Get Me a Guy—currently playing at Under St Marks Theater in the East Village.
And playing is exactly the right word. The 80-minute comedy, written by Israela Margalit and directed by John Clancy, is a spirited romp through a series of dating vignettes. Having begun life as a one-act, the play won Margalit plaudits at the New York International Midtown Theater Festival and the New York Short Play Festival, and was subsequently fleshed out into a full-length, eclectic meditation on life and love.
Alongside the occasional location-specific zingers (“Short men are like the Cloisters,” complains one diminutive character, “everyone talks nicely about them but no one wants to go there”) and frequently hilarious dating disasters, there are poignant scenes that cut to the quick of what it means to be human, and lonely, and yearning not to be.
We sat down with Margalit and Clancy, to talk drama and dating.
IM: Well actually, no. It’s not personal. I was writing it when I was extremely happily married. What I really know about the New York dating scene is from my daughter’s girlfriends. She has a whole bunch of girlfriends—including herself—who are just wonderful women and they have real trouble finding a guy. I think that’s what started to give me the idea. Not only my daughter’s girlfriends, but perhaps also my girlfriends whose daughters have gone through the same experience. My husband at the time was desperately, desperately ill, and I was taking care of him, and I was in a terrible place because I knew I was going to lose him. Somehow, just to survive I guess, I started to write.
JC: But it’s all there. It goes from a lot of fun and silliness and broad comic pieces, but then what makes it unique and wonderful is that it does mature—it does go to a place with more sense and thought and weight, in the last couple of scenes. The final scene, as was pointed out in rehearsals, that’s the only couple that really makes it: the old folks in bed. They’re still scrapping—it’s not Romeo and Juliet by any means—but they’re there and together. That’s uplifting I think.
One of the chorus lines is “It’s a male buyers market.” Do you think this holds true generally? Or is it just a stereotype now?
IM: It’s tongue in cheek! I don’t mean it. It’s just a provocative thing that I threw into the play. Afterwards, the women turn it around, and start to make the rules. It’s not a statement of affairs.
JC: I think it’s definitely changing. For my generation, I think it was probably true that the whole biological clock thing was just a reality. But this is a comedy. I think in general everybody has a hard time finding the right person. It’s not just ‘Get Me a Guy,’ it’s ‘Get Me the Right Guy.’ It’s not ‘Get Me Some Woman to Date,’ but ‘Get Me the Perfect Woman.’
I was wondering, Israela, did any other pop culture inspire you? Sex and the City, I suppose, is the classic of dating in NYC.
IM: Well, I love Sex and the City—I think it’s a wonderful piece of theatricality, of television, of movies. But I did not really think about anything specific, I just sat down and wrote it. And after the short piece was performed in the festival, it had such a surprisingly strong reaction from the audience and it got all kinds of awards. And the head of the festival urged me to turn into a full-length, but I really didn’t know what to do with it. Then after my husband passed and I was miserable, not knowing what to do with myself, I just started writing. And one day I looked at my computer and I had 103 pages of a play.
IM: That relationships are difficult. That you can’t go through a relationship without forgiving yourself and other people for their faults. We are all full of faults. You can’t be perfect. You try, you manage sometimes for the first six months of a relationship, but then it comes out and you just have to deal. The whole idea of a life-long relationship—very few people manage to do it. Right, John? You managed to do it.
JC: I’ve been married 22 years, yeah. And we’re working at it all the times. But the truth is—I’m sure it’s a universal truth, but it’s also very much a New York City truth. That’s the paradox: such a big city with so many people. Yet it’s so very difficult to be single and actually find someone. You know that if you approach someone on the street, you’ve gotta be mad. The play speaks to that loneliness that everyone carries. And then once they’ve actually found somebody or a potential somebody, the philosophy that they’ll fight for it.
IM: And we all think that we deserve more than we deserve, and when we get what we deserve we tend to ruin it! My late husband used to say to me, “My God, I wish I met you much earlier,” and I said, “No, no, no, you would have ruined it!” When it’s almost too late, you learn how to do it.
Why do you think New York in particular is so difficult, relationships-wise?
JC: I’ve been in New York 25 years, so I can’t really compare it to a lot of places but the thing about New York is that everyone is so driven. Working so hard and focused so much on just getting through the day. It’s not a relaxed place and it’s very hard to open up to somebody or take the time to get to know somebody when everybody is over-caffeinated and dashing back and forth. It’s rare that there’s a quiet, mellow New York moment [laughs].
IM: And it’s a very expensive city. Having a family is a very big commitment, and people work double time here—no one has time to date properly. Successful people are not always available—they are here, they are there. People are more suspicious. Now that my husband has passed, I’m hearing more about dating and it all looks VERY WEIRD. Since I got married, it changed completely!
Get Me a Guy is playing at Under St Marks (94 St Marks Place), through August 4th. Tickets are $18.