Even for the energetic and versatile Hershey Felder — pianist, actor, playwright, composer and producer — the time warp of his next two world premieres may be considered a bit of a stretch.
Jonathan Lynn wants to know what an egg cream is. Sitting in Jerry’s Deli in Westwood on an absurdly hot day in early May, he’s less interested in talking about his show “Yes, Prime Minister” at this moment than he is about finding out what ingredients go into the classic New York drink.
William Peter Blatty was a Georgetown University student in August 1949 when he came across a front-page story in the Washington Post titled “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” Blatty, a devout Catholic, was fascinated by the accounts of the 14-year-old’s bed violently shaking and torrents of curses in Latin whenever the exorcist commanded the demon to leave the boy.
Malka and Abraham Jura faced a Solomonic decision in late 1938, as the Nazis were tightening the vise on the Jews of Vienna. The couple hoped to send their three daughters to safety but were able to wrangle only one place on the Kindertransport ferrying a limited number of Jewish children to London. After much agonizing, the Juras decided to give the spot to 14-year-old Lisa, a remarkable piano prodigy.
"I want to take viewers through three different generations, to meet three of the greatest music-makers -- actually musical inventors -- who ever lived," says Felder. "What connects these composers, thematically, is the price that each paid in order to create his work."
A play with both wit and heart is a compelling combination, and it's one that playwright Donald Margulies' pulls off in his mostly rewarding "Collected Stories."
"Stories" drew critical praise and a 1997 Pulitzer Prize nomination following it's world première at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory. Happily, in director Gilbert Cates' current Los Angeles production at the Geffen Playhouse, the play's intelligence and emotional power remain intact.