THE SCREENWRITER’S DAUGHTER
by Larry Mollin.
Leicester Square Theatre (Lounge) 6 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX To 29 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 7pm Sun 2pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7734 2222.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 November.
20th-century America’s seismic cultural shift in relationship where father and daughter frankly do give a damn.
A piece this length is often thin stuff for an evening, being more of a lunchtime snack. But seasoned US screenwriter Larry Mollin’s play is one of the rare exceptions. If it feels brief, that’s because the central relationship between the Hechts, father Ben and daughter Jenny, is so involving.
Yet it’s dramatically substantial, developing the tension between two minds drawn together by affection yet flung apart by generational attitudes. This was the 1960s, when Ben had behind him long-ago success as a journalist (something of a Chicago Damon Runyan), then novelist and writer, or co-writer, of plays and a good proportion of Hollywood’s finest-wrought, most literate and witty screenplays (including Gone With the Wind’s final script, written, incredibly, over five days, and uncredited).
Jenny wants to flee his success, and American Dream-time conformity, joining revolutionary performance troupe The Living Theatre. Mostly the play sees Jenny around her bed and Ben at his desk arguing on the ’phone – either Mollin or director Anna Ostergren increases the distance argument puts between them by the phones’ receivers lying on desk, bed or floor as Ben tries to persuade his 19-year old daughter to stay in America while she seeks independence with her own generation, friends and lovers (ironically, her one visit home catches Ben with his secretary).
This is life as Ben might script it, deeply-felt yet reasoned. Then the Living Theatre erupts onto stage with its direct grasping of audience attention, political statement and no-argument disruption of everything that had been understood as theatre in the mainstream.
It reflects the difference in radicalism. Ben’s campaigning for a Jewish state had set him against Europe, while Jenny is part of the liberated, drug-hazed sixties. She was there, though she didn’t live long enough to remember it much.
There was exploitation within such liberation. Mollin’s script economically develops both sides of the argument, while Paul Easom’s Ben shows a father’s anxiety fighting awareness of the need not to be restrictive and Samantha Dakin’s Jenny expresses intelligently the young woman’s uncertainty amidst assurance, the lure of comfort amid an insistent need for new adventure.
Jenny Hecht: Samantha Dakin.
Ben Hecht: Paul Easom.
Steve: Tom Hunter.
Magda/May Mountain: Laura Pradelska.
Living Theatre: Edward Cherrie.
Director: Anna Ostergren.
Designer/Costume: Lydia Cawson.
Lighting: Sarah Crocker.
Choreographer: Tiffany Annan.