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Jewish Journal

A ‘Love-Mock’ Relationship

Being Jewish in Orange County is a focus of new Greenberg play

by Naomi Pfefferman

March 30, 2000 | 7:00 pm

At one point in Richard Greenberg's new play, "Everett Beekin," scheduled to premiere at South Coast Repertory (SCR) in September, a Jewish New Yorker arrives in Orange County and is perplexed by the efficiency, the serenity, the friendliness of the natives. "I don't want to mark myself a Californiphobic ... because [that is such a] cliché," one of the characters, Celia, tells her sister. "But the worst part is: You can never catch them when you've turned your back and you quick turn back. I mean, the tell-tale sneer, the exchanged mocking glances. You turn your back and they're still smiling! What are they? Happy?"

By the end of the play, the jaded protagonist falls in love with Orange County, which bewildered at least one audience member after a reading last year. "Do you really hate it here?" the viewer asked the New York playwright. "No, I love it here," he replied sincerely. "It's not 'love-hate.' It's 'love-mock.'"

For Greenberg, whose work is known for wicked wit and delicious, satirical comedy, to "love-mock" is the height of flattery. It is a tribute to the fruitful, decade-long relationship he has enjoyed with SCR in Costa Mesa, one of the most prestigious nonprofit regional theaters in the country. Greenberg, 42, who speaks in a fast-paced staccato, has had five plays produced at SCR, where he has received more commissions than any other writer. "It's a tonic," he says of the month he spends each year at the theater. "It's clarifying. It's very calm there, which makes it a great place to work on a new play. And all the physical spaciousness creates a corresponding mental spaciousness."

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