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March 3, 2015: WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — The Majestic Theater’s latest production is a romantic comedy, “One Slight Hitch“, and its author, comedian Lewis Black, was in attendance for opening night last Thursday. Before the opening curtain, ABC40’s Dave Madsen sat down to talk with Black about the play and its inspiration By Dave Marsden @ ABC40
DM: Good to see you. A lot of people aren’t probably aware of the fact that you started out as a playwright.
LB: About 6 people are aware. Its’ not really well known because I literally left theater when I was about 40 and literally switched careers and when on the road as a comic.
DM: This play, One Slight Hitch, you literally wrote over 30 years ago.
LB: 35 years ago.
DM: It sat on a shelf?
LB: It was done, it was performed, I thought I was on my way. It was done at this kind of prestigious festival that has since, like many prestigious festivals, has dropped dead. This Canyon Festival Theater and then it had readings at the arena stage, which is a big hoo-hah in Washington and then the Center Stage in Baltimore and then it was sent around. There was always this almost like, it’s gonna get done. And then Rand, who directed the show here, Rand directed down at the Ace Charlotte Repertory Theater, a small theater in Charlotte NC, we down there with it. And that was kind of the last big production of it. But it was optioned for Broadway for 6 years. So it would continue to be optioned, but then I’d get things back that theaters were rejecting it. But then they took it, a friend of mine optioned it, took it to London. They thought it was too much of a sitcom. This is 30 years ago. This to me was it because this was as nice as I could be.
DM: So it’s going to be a little different than what people would expect?
LB: Yeah, I’ve said it time and again, if my name weren’t on it nobody would know that I wrote this play.
DM: It’s just completely different.
LB: It’s a romantic comedy.
DM: What was your inspiration for it?
LB: It was a woman who I had lived with for two years out of the drama school we came out of. She and I moved to NY together. She never was going to be married. And the thing was, she left the U.S. to do a big movie. The whole time I was with her it was, you know I’m never going to get married. And as a matter of fact on the list of things that I prioritize, you’re third. She loved me, but I’m third on the list. Her career came first. I forget what came second, her health probably. And then two weeks later she called me up and said she was marrying some guy. I was like you’ve got to be kidding me and she was like, yeah, I’m going to marry him. And she married this guy 6 months later. And it flipped me out and made me think a lot. I kind of called her parents and said somebody ought to talk to her because she’s not gonna listen to me. I mean this is what a crazy person would do. And then the wedding took place and all of my friends were invited and I wasn’t. And they all came back from the wedding saying this was nuts. I was kind of close to the family, I liked them and they liked me. So all the family was wondering why is she marrying this guy and isn’t she marrying Lewis. And then really, that was it. Now I’ve got a plot, that’s a play, so what if I showed up?
DM: So Rand (Forester) brought it here.
LB: Rand brought it here and it’s been published now. It only took 35 years to get it published.
DM: Fact is, you’ve done all right.
LB: I’ve done well. I did well just by leaving the theater. I was paid in my first week of stand-up on the road, seven shows. And I received the same amount of money that I received for writing a play that took like two years to write. And I was going, there’s something wrong with this picture. I mean this is crazy.
DM: I’m not going back.
LB: I was broke, I didn’t know what I was thinking.
DM: And you were saying you were 40 at the time.
LB: I was 40. I was completely broke. I mean you can only tell your parents, I continued to tell my parents that we had established a living will.
DM: I mean at 40, you had a good midlife crisis.
LB: It was very good, I mean I was lucky, as opposed to panicking and thinking. I’d been doing stand-up on and off. And stand-up in a way is very close to theater, so you’ve got to do it on your own.
DM: Lewis Black thank you.
Lewis Black, Playwright
By: Terry Teachout @ Wall Street Journal
It isn’t unusual for actors to try their hand at playwriting, and some of them, like Zoe Kazan, do it very well. But except for Woody Allen, I can’t recall any working comedians who’ve been particularly successful at writing for the legitimate stage. (Unlike Mr. Allen, Steve Martin didn’t start writing plays until after he stopped doing stand-up.) This makes sense, since stand-up comedians are short hitters who work with a company of one. Plays call for a larger canvas, as well as a grasp of dramatic structure that is alien to the smash-and-grab methods of even the most inspired comics.
Enter Lewis Black, who is best known for his appearances on “The Daily Show.” Mr. Black, who started out as a playwright but never had much luck at it, has taken another shot at bucking the odds with a two-act play called “One Slight Hitch” that’s been making the regional rounds and is now being performed by Florida Repertory Theatre, a top-notch company whose custom is to offer its audiences something light in January. On the surface, “One Slight Hitch,” a comedy about a wedding that goes haywire, fills the bill with ease—but Mr. Black’s play is more serious than it seems.
The first surprise about “One Slight Hitch” is that it’s not at all the kind of play you’d expect from a stand-up comedian. Instead of being a slurry of one-liners held together by an exiguous plot, it’s a solidly built piece of theatrical carpentry about a nuclear family in comic crisis. From “The Philadelphia Story” (to which “One Slight Hitch” bears a definite resemblance) in the ’30s to “Never Too Late” in the ’60s, such plays used to be Broadway’s commercial stock in trade, but they’ve pretty much died off in recent years. Hence it’s a nostalgic treat to watch Mr. Black ring the changes on the once-familiar, still-hummable theme of what happens to a seemingly happy, soon-to-be-wed couple (Rachel Moulton and Sid Solomon) when the ne’er-do-well ex-boyfriend of the bride-to-be (Nate Washburn) shows up without warning at the front door of her horrified parents (Martin LaPlatney and Carrie Lund ) on the morning of her great big wedding.
What gives “One Slight Hitch” its distinctive flavor is that Delia, the mother, is a member of the Greatest Generation who was forced to marry in haste and fear during World War II and has longed ever since to make up for it by putting together a super-wedding for one of her three daughters. Mr. Black’s brand of comedy has a strong political flavor, so it figures that Delia and her family should be staunchly Republican suburbanites. The twist is that Delia, as a shrink might put it, has insight into her condition, and expresses it with great poignancy in the play’s final scene: “We ache[d] for life, hoping to flood the world with innocent children, replacing the smell of death with baby powder….We tried to share that dream with you, our children, but the smoke had cleared and you couldn’t smell it.”
That’s a tricky mix to manage, and “One Slight Hitch” doesn’t always jell, in part because the first act, which feels like the setup for a four-doors-and-a-guy-in-drag farce, is too loosely written (Mr. Black could have trimmed 10 minutes out of it). But the laughs flow freely after intermission, and Ms. Lund, one of the mainstays of Florida Rep’s semipermanent ensemble, is very much up to the challenging task of finding the emotional heart of Delia’s climactic monologue. Mr. LaPlatney is striking in a different but equally satisfying way as her husband, who responds to the rising tide of chaos in his household by paying one or two (or five) visits too many to the living-room bar. He gets most of the biggest laughs in “One Slight Hitch” and earns them all, though I was also struck by Georgia Mallory Guy, who plays the middle daughter, a nurse who goes in for serious drinking and casual sex (“Whose bachelor party was it?” “I’m not sure—it was so dark inside that cake”).
Florida Rep has a knack for getting comedy right, and Chris Clavelli, who was wildly funny in the company’s 2011 production of A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia,” turns out to be similarly accomplished as a director. It’s not easy to strike the right tone in a play like this, but Mr. Clavelli’s staging steers confidently down the center. Ray Recht, the set designer, knows just what a comfortable but nondescript Cincinnati living room would have looked like (the play is set in 1981) and has put it onstage with absolute fidelity. I hope that Mr. Black continues to prune the script of “One Slight Hitch,” but it’s already effective just as it is—enough so that I’d like to see him try writing a straight drama—and Florida Rep, not at all surprisingly, does it full and satisfying justice.
Lewis Black Comedy Comes To Florida
By: Charles Runnells @ News-Press.com
Lewis Black admits he was somewhat bitter when he abandoned his life as a struggling playwright 26 years ago.
“I left the theater when I was 40,” he says. “I thought 22 years of rejection was sufficient.”
Besides, he’d found much more success as a hilariously ticked-off stand-up comedian and, later, as a hilariously ticked-off political commentator on the fake-news TV show “The Daily Show.”
Still, Black never completely fell out of love with live theater. And he kept writing and tinkering with his plays even after he became a famous TV personality. That includes his romantic comedy “One Slight Hitch,” which gets its Florida premiere this weekend at Florida Repertory Theatre in downtown Fort Myers.
The play often surprises people who know Black mostly as his public character, a man who’s always just 10 seconds away from a nervous breakdown. There’s a lot of heart in “One Slight Hitch,” for one thing, and some critics have compared it to the work of Neil Simon. Plus it’s a farce with lots of slamming doors, misunderstandings and such.
“If my name wasn’t on it,” Black says, “people wouldn’t know I wrote it.”
“One Slight Hitch” predates his angry-guy character, he explains. And besides, it’s fun to thwart audience expectations.
“I’ve been onstage screaming at them for years,” he says. “So I thought, ‘OK, here: Let’s just have a good time.’”
In the play, a woman is about to get married when her ex-boyfriend shows up unannounced and causes all sorts of mayhem. It’s all mixed with subtle social and political commentary and set in the Reagan-era ’80s, including songs like “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Jessie’s Girl.”
Black, 66, got the idea for “One Slight Hitch” about 35 years ago while toiling away as playwright-in-residence for the West Bank Café Downstairs Theatre Bar in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City.
The play was inspired by a girlfriend who broke up with Black and told him she never wanted to get married. Then she called him one day and said she’d met a man and — surprise! — they were getting hitched.
“That really blew my mind,” he says.
His friends attended the wedding — Black stayed away — and they told him afterward that all anybody talked about was him. That got his creative juices percolating, he says. “And then I thought, ‘What if I DID go?’”
Black says the character Ryan — the beatnik poet who inadvertently crashes the wedding — is basically a stand-in for himself and gets to say some of the things he wanted to say but never did.
It took awhile for the play to catch on, though. “One Slight Hitch” saw a handful of performances in the ‘80s and it was even optioned for Broadway. “And then it never saw the light of day,” Black says.
“And it got rejected by a bunch of regional theaters. And then I dropped it.”
Then about 14 years ago, a friend offered a suggestion on revamping the play. So Black rewrote it, rearranged its structure and moved the important mother’s speech to the end.
Black says he’d been wanting to revamp “One Slight Hitch” for years. And he’s glad he finally did.
“It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle that’s in the middle of your house,” he says. “It has 100 pieces, and you keep trying to figure it out.”
The show has had about five or six U.S. productions since being revamped, Black says. Another 10 or 12 are coming in the next year or so at theaters in Australia, England, the U.S. and elsewhere.
The Perfect Wedding, Except For "One Slight Hitch"
The Racine Theatre Guild starts the new year with a modern wedding-day farce, “One Slight Hitch,” by comedian Lewis Black. The play is being staged from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1 at the Theatre Guild, 2519 Northwestern Ave, Racine WI.
The setting is the upper-middle-class home of Doc and Delia Coleman (Jerry Rannow and Shawn Britten) in suburban Cincinnati in 1981 on the wedding day of their daughter, Courtney (Shannon McGuire). She is marrying wealthy, logical, well-groomed Harper (Mike DeGuire). It is to be the lavish wedding Dr. and Mrs. Coleman never had, until the doorbell rings and one slight hitch wreaks havoc on all of their plans. Arriving unannounced on their doorstep is Ryan (Len Maki), Courtney’s vagabond ex-boyfriend, who is unaware of her engagement and simply stopped to visit, as he happened to be in town. Also along for the ride through the deconstruction of the perfect wedding are two other Coleman daughters: 16-year-old P.B. (Isabella Smetana) and 20-something Melanie (Rebecca Kishline), an attractive and psychotic nurse.
Black was originally a playwright and at the age of 40 made a transition to stand-up comedy. Since 1996, he’s been doing a segment on “The Daily Show” called “Back in Black.” He was named Best Male Stand-Up at the American Comedy Awards in 2001. Black has won two Grammy Awards for his comedy recordings. He has taped four specials for Comedy Central and two for HBO. Black is frequently seen on late-night television, has a rigorous touring schedule, appears in films and has written three best-selling books and more than 40 plays. “One Slight Hitch” was written in 2011.
Nathan Stamper is directing the Racine Theatre Guild’s production. Linda Freund designed and painted the set. Kelli Kauzlarich heads the volunteer crew as production stage manager, with Stefanie Stamper calling the show as stage manager.