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The Global Film Village: HENRY JAGLOM’S NEW PLAY “JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY”

by Marla Lewin

Henry Jaglom known for his numerous independent films has written a new play, 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY premiered on October 17 at the Edgemar theatre. Director Gary Imhoff says it is Henry’s best writing yet, and we have to agree.

This is the story of a mostly Jewish extended family, The Isaacs. There’s a little Irish, some Italian and a bit of Chickasaw thrown into the mix. George Isaacs (AKA Grisha), the patriarch, was a third-generation star of the Yiddish theatre as a child. Then he “crossed over” into English-speaking theatre as he grew up. His wife, Vivien Cooper, had also been a successful stage actress, but now mostly stays at home and looks after George. Times are tough and theatre jobs are few and far between for everyone in the house. Vivien’s brother, Larry Cooper, is performing in a nearby production of “Guys and Dolls”and staying at the Isaacs’ house as well. George is quick to slam what Larry does as merely dinner-theatre. The Isaacs have also taken in a boarder, Sally Brooks, a fading character actress.

George and Vivien have two grown daughters. Pandora (Panda), the youngest is also an actor. She is happy to have been born in a trunk and has loved living the actor’s life. But she has moved back into her parents’ crumbling home, just 45 minutes from Broadway, after a long-term romance collapses. Unfortunately only the latest of several failed love affairs. Betsy the older daughter hates the world of showbiz and is uncomfortable with its inhabitants. She moved away to become successful as a “civilian.”

The major story point happens when Betsy brings home her fiancé to meet “the family”. Jimmy Halkin, a successful businessman (”mostly in real estate”), is as seemingly as normal as her family members are “weird.” That’s how Betsy sees them. They are all in for surprises. Betsy has been making plans that will affect all their lives, and not with their consent. Jimmy is not who he seems to be and there are numerous other surprises along the way. Because Henry Jaglom is the playwright, we will see over the course of the play how genuineness and determination effect how everyone lives life on their own terms.

Jaglom’s other plays include the award-winning “Room 322;” “A Safe Place” his debut theatre piece first written for the Actors’ Studio, later made into a film with Jack Nicholson, Tuesday Weld and Orson Welles—and “Always…But Not Forever,” his adaptation of his 1985 film of the same name (which premiered last year at the Edgemar). He is most known as a celebrated auteur of films that put women front and center (bucking the Hollywood trend) and that contain many scenes of people engaging in intelligent conversation (also defying Hollywood fashion). His movies as a writer and director include the current “Irene in Time,” “Hollywood Dreams,” “Deja Vu,” “Last Summer in the Hamptons,” “Someone to Love,” “Venice/Venice,” “Festival in Cannes,” and “Eating.”

Tanna Frederick the star of two Jaglom films, “Hollywood Dreams” and “Irene in Time” stars as Panda. She recently completed principal photography on Jaglom’s “Queen of the Lot,” opposite Noah Wyle and Chris Rydell, which will be released next year. Her stage credits include roles in Jaglom’s “Always… But Not Forever” and “A Safe Place.” She has also appeared in N. Richard Nash’s “Echoes,” “Toussaint: For The Love Of Freedom,” “Why We Have A Body,” and “The Maids.”  Tanna was awarded the 2009 Maverick Award by the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. Also engaged in philanthropic pursuits, she is co-founder of “Project Save Our Surf” and founder of the Iowa  Independent Film Festival.

Gary Imhoff’s other directing credits include the plays  “Always….But Not Forever,”(also by Jaglom) “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and “The Dearly Departed,” as well as the upcoming films “Break,” “Scottish Dreams,” and “Wildflower.” Also an actor, he portrayed Charlie Brown in the original production of “Snoopy!,” starred in “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” (L.A. and N.Y.), “Assassins” (West Coast Premiere), often appeared in films and frequently in television episodes of “Falcon Crest” and “Eight Is Enough.”

Gary spoke with me about his years working with Milton Katelis at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, teaching acting, and how he was inspired by Kazan, and German director, Meyerholst, who focus on the pschological behavior of the characters. They all agree that actors should be able to tell the story through their actions, the same as in a silent film.  Gary and his wife Leanna, said the set is so lush, they had thought of sleeping over one night. The play uses the music of Al Jolson throughout and ends with “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

I asked Henry if the show was broadway bound? Or if he intended to turn this play into a movie?  He said he was happy to have his opening night, and would go on from that, and weren’t the actors wonderful?

The lines in this play are very, very funny.  Gary said Henry wrote the first act of the play in 4 days, then he had a little writer’s block, and did the 2nd act in a week. He’s been refining the piece for the last 3 months.  At intermission, Valerie Harper said to Henry, “You are so romantic!” Henry looked at Gary, and said, “well they liked the first act.  Now for the rest of the show”.  Henry sat with his daughter, Sabrina who inspired the older sister character in the play, and she wrote “a Note,” included in the program entitled, “MY PARENTS ARE ECCENTRIC.” She wrote “They made me a character, and I didn’t even know it.  Instead of brushing my emotions with laughter, or comforting me, they would say, “This would be a great scene in a movie.”

Gary directed Henry’s hit Always, he said when Henry was going through a divorce, Orson Wells told him to do it as a movie.  Gary said he is also inspired by watching Turner Classics Movies. His wife , Leanna says, he often stops a movie, to study a scene.  He likes Capra, and his human stories.  This play is not only shining a light on human emotions, it is so humorous.  Many lines such as, “Born stupid, it’s for Life.”  “Loose lips sink sips.” The dialogue is so intelligent, give yourselve a treat and see the play while you can.  Henry’s character says, “I have done with my life what I love.,” and it shows.

The3 play also stars David Garver, Jack Heller, David Proval, Diane Louise Salinger, and Harriet Schock all of whom are just terrific in the roles. It was produced by Alexandra Guarnieri.

Edgemar Center For the Arts, on the Main Stage, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

Parking is available (fee charged) in an onsite structure, and metered parking is available in nearby Lot 11, across the street from Peet’s Coffee.

Closes Sunday, December 20. Show times:  Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. Dark Thanksgiving Weekend, November 26-29.

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.

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