The Playrights Realm
Katherine Kovner, Artistic Director
The Hatmaker’s Wife
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Rachel Chavkin
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
416 West 42nd Street
Marcia Jean Kurts
Stephanie Wright Thompson
Producing Director: Renee Blinkwolt
Scenic Design: Carolyn Mraz
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Amith Chandrashaker
Sound Design & Original Music: Ryan Rumery
Production Supervisor: James Cleveland/Production Core
Casting: Paul Davis/Calleri Casting
Production Stage Manager: Lori Amondson
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 20, 2013
I was so drawn to this one-act play, produced by The Playwrights Realm, That I could not even take notes. It was a magnetic experience, especially for one whose grandmothers spoke with similar Yiddish accents as Hetchman, Hetchman’s Wife, and Meckel. These three characters, along with their own Golem, are a ghostly husband and wife, plus omnipresent neighbor. It happens that they’re visible and audible to a youthful, modern young woman, an editor, called Voice (Stephanie Wright Thompson), but not to her needy, impatient boyfriend, Gabe (Frank Harts), who also appears as the hefty, clunky Golem, who loves to eat. Gabe and Voice decide to experiment with a shared apartment, looking for instant compatibility to seal their future and family. It’s a well-worn home that they rent, with faded wallpaper, torn chair, and ceiling that drips copy paper with notes from Wall (Megan Byrne), who narrates stories with equally charming Yiddish affect. Wall evokes decades past, as Hetchman (David Margulies), a hatmaker, and his dedicated, yearning Wife (Marcia Jean Kurtz) briefly separate. The Wife plans an adventure to bring Hetchman’s emotions into his own consciousness. She takes his hat to wear herself, as all these years that’s all she longed for. Hetchman would say his hats were for men.
Hetchman sits on his mangy chair, day after day, year after year, watching television, while wearing his favorite handmade hat. Hetchman’s Wife brings food, newspapers, and anything he needs at any given time. She’s called Wife, because he unknowingly forgot her name. Hetchman and his Wife’s best friend and constant door-opener is Meckel (Peter Friedman), who truly adores Wife, as she adores him, but they are both resigned to their marriages, for better or worse. There’s a side story about Hetchman’s Wife’s loss of a child, that floats out of a pink blanket, because Hetchman couldn’t care for it for even a moment. It was rejected, so it left. A story within the side story implies the child may have been conceived with Meckel. For a moment they kiss, in that memory. Speaking of memories, mason jars with interior, brightly colored lights, are opened slowly to release moments from the past that linger in palpable space. While Hetchman’s Wife takes her train trip (seen through the walls), the Golem appears and shares a bag of chips with the conversational Hetchman. When his Wife returns, the Golem’s job is darker, but the hat she dreamt of is fashioned on the spot.
Mr. Margulies, whether in his craftsman’s apron or his drab, loose pants, performs this remarkable role with pure poignancy, compelling charisma, and ingénue whimsy. Hetchman, the husband, is not unlike so many long-married men, who survive on routine and predictability, keeping warmth and words of love in check. Ms. Kurtz, as Hetchman’s Wife, is self-effacing, yet charming, determined, yet loyal. Mr. Friedman, as Meckel, performs with energy, enthusiasm, and pathos. All three characters were imbued with the forces of life, to such an extent, that their spirits lived on into the next generation. Ms. Thompson played Voice with eagerness, as each note wafted to the floor, and her conflicted relationship with Gabe mirrored the conflicted relationships unfolding through their home’s reenacted history. Mr. Harts, as Gabe, was sympathetic and accessible. As Golem, he was comic yet ominous. Ms. Byrne, seen only in the wall, toward the end of the play, was, yet, intriguing, in her ethnic narrations. Rachel Chavkin directed Lauren Yee’s new play to allow for silences, pauses, and other natural mannerisms. Interior feelings, although implicit and understated, were starkly evident. Carolyn Mraz’ set offered just the right dinginess, while it was built to open to optical surprises. Costumes, sound, and lighting were all effective in maximizing this compact production. Kudos to The Playwrights Realm. .