DRAMA QUEENS FROM HELL
REVIEWS FOR PURGATORY GARDENS:
Lefcourt (The Deal) deftly plays this twisted tale of romance among senior citizens for laughs. Sammy Dee, a retired Mafia man, and Didier Onyekachukwu, who served as finance minister for one of Burkino Faso’s unelected presidents, vie for the affections of 60-something actress Marcy Gray. All of them live in Paradise Gardens, a Palm Springs, Calif., condo better known to residents as Purgatory Gardens. Both men, each of whom is running from his past (Sammy is in the witness protection program; Didier is a wanted man after a coup), are looking to Marcy for comfort and security. Marcy, who’s looking for the same thing, is wise enough to hire investigator Evelyn Duboff to check out her mysterious suitors. Things heat up when first Sammy and then Didier decides to hire a killer to remove the competition, especially as they hire from the same outfit—Acme Exterminating and Patio Decks, which “redid your patio while they took out your enemies.” Emmy-winner Lefcourt, who has written and produced for both TV and film, delivers a novel ready-made for the movies. (Aug.)
REVIEWS FOR CAFE SOCIETY
THE MANHATTAN BEACH PROJECT
“Outrageously funny, deftly narrated…”
- Kirkus Reviews
“A rollicking sequel to The Deal…a boisterous, laugh-out-loud spoof….”
“…characteristically quirky, a graceful coda to the broken promise of sexual happiness.”
- Publishers Weekly
“…Amiable and fun: this flirts with offensiveness but never goes all the way.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“Breezy, good-natured and…a good deal of fun.”
- The Washington Post
“His [Lefcourt's] most affecting and mature work.”
- The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“If it turns out that “Eleven Karens” becomes a cult favorite, be sure you’re part of the cult.”
- The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal
THE DREYFUS AFFAIR
“The most glamorously upbeat book I’ve ever read.”
- Boston Sunday Herald
“The Dreyfus Affair should ease the pain for all baseball fans who have watched the national pastime do its best to quench their love of the sport.”
- The Wall Street Journal
“An appealing, almost irresistible idea for a comic novel.”
- Los Angeles Times
“You can count the wonderful novels about Hollywood on two hands. The Deal is one of them…”
- Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A good-natured romp through the dream factory in the 1990′s.”
- New York Times Book Review
“An irreverent, amusing read.”
- USA Today
“As timely as this week’s headlines — and much funnier…A sterling, witty literary performance.”
- San Francisco Examiner
“Terrific. The very funny Peter Lefcourt has crafted a hilarious narrative about the Job-like trials of the erratically tumescent, completely unprincipled, borderline vacuous and ultimately strangely likable senator from Vermont.”
- The Baltimore Sun
DI & I
“Di & I has enough page-turning hilarity and romance to make it a worthy candidate for beach reading.”
“Di & I displays Mr. Lefcourt’s bright conversational style and expert comic timing.”
- New York Times Book Review
“Lefcourt is a whiz at conducting you through farcical entangelements without ever losing his glancing comic touch.”
- Boston Globe
“…a hilarious send-up of tabloid justice and trial by media.”
“Lefcourt is good about all the ways we are bad.”
- Diane Sawyer
“Normalcy and perversion blur into one gigantic, twisted entertainment. If I weren’t laughing so hard, I’d be truly frightened by this bullseye portrait of mass-media dementia.”
- Eric Bogosian
“Mutually Assured Destruction” (2012)
The plot of this tasty theatrical morsel, written by Peter Lefcourt and well directed by his wife Terri Hanauer, who keeps the action moving at break-neck speed, is a familiar one – man cheats on the wife of his best friend, gets caught by another friend who, let’s say is always looking to save a dime and drives to the Valley to get a lube job and unexpectedly comes upon two cheating hearts.
And now, for some details. Murray, wonderfully played by Bobby Costanzo, is having an afternoon tryst with Eve, played with crack comic timing by Brynn Thayer, at La Casa de Pepe, a Mexican joint in Canoga Park where Westsiders seldom, if ever, venture. It seemed like a safe place to cuddle and coo but lo and behold, their friend Arnie, masterfully played by Kip Gilman, decides to kill time by having a Margarita while his car is being serviced and shock of shock, he encounters his two friends, sans their respective spouses. Concerned that Arnie might blow her cover, Eve leaves a threatening message on his voice mail using a biblical reference about who should be tossing out the first stone, alluding to the fact that she had some kind of goods on him. With its unending string of twists and hilarious turns and devious behavior, what ensues could loosely be described as a French bedroom farce without the slamming of doors.
Now Herb, the cuckolded husband of Eve, wonderfully played by Stuart Pankin who captures his character’s broad range of comic emotions, is suspicious that his wife might be cheating, but confesses, “I want to know, and I don’t want to know.”
Eventually, he concludes that his friend is the culprit, but it’s the wrong friend and as is the case with farce, all hell is about to break out. Herb decides to have lunch with the wife of the accused to fish around for confirmation and the scene between Herb and Arnie’s wife Carol, superbly played by Gina Hecht, is hilarious as Herb stumbles through by using a hypothetical cheating situation. Carol has no idea what he’s talking about.
In the meantime, Herb’s little sexpot of a wife Myrna, delightfully played by Gwendolyn Druyor, adds a touch of innocence to the devious behavior exhibited by most of the characters.
Lefcourt uses a tried and true theatrical device of breaking the fourth wall by having Kip Gilman’s Arnie serve as moderator of the shenanigans which he does extremely well, capturing the mood and tone of the narrative. The only blip is asking the audience to look at photos in the program that immediately destroys the fantasy journey that the audience has been invited to take.
Anyway, using the Cold War as a metaphor as the ensuing couples go to war, a large map is on the upstage wall with various countries outlined such as Canada, North Korea, South Korea, Uzbekistan, etc., and as the play progresses, photos of the characters are affixed to a country.
Special praise must go to a most talented Michael Caldwell who plays multiple roles such as the waiter in the Mexican restaurant, an aging butler, and in a very funny scene, the rather sadistic technician who is getting ready to administer a bikini wax to Carol and Myrna.
The production values are clever as the set design by Celine Diano that consists of modular pieces on rollers that double as tables, chairs, desks, etc., and are positioned at the beginning of a scene by the actors and then replaced at the end of that particular scene. The lighting design by Michael Gend nicely complements the action.
Director Hanauer’s dynamite cast, coupled with a clever script, makes for a light-hearted evening of theatre and in the words of the Bard, “All’s Well That End’s Well” or a mutually assured evening of enjoyment.
“La Ronde De Lunch — Theater Review
By Hoyt Hilsman, BackStage, November 03, 2009 03:26 ET
Bottom Line: Scriptwriter turns his pen on Hollywood via the theater.
Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s sexual farce, writer Peter Lefcourt has fashioned a hilarious sendup of Hollywood mores and memes, performed by a sparkling cast under the deft direction of Terri Hanauer. Lefcourt has written scripts for Hollywood for more than 30 years, including “Eight Is Enough” and “Desperate Housewives,” and apparently has the scars to show for it.
His glittering farce is set at El Pueblo de la Venezia, an overpriced and overhyped restaurant whose denizens are the usual array of celebrity agents, actors, producers, realtors and fitness instructors. Like Schnitzler’s classic comedy, the play features the interconnected, serial stories of several characters who meet at the restaurant, at the same table, for lunch.
There is the aging actor (Kathryn Harrold), the producer (Michael B. Silver), the pregnant studio exec (Kate Siegel), the agent (Joe Briggs), the realtor (Gina Hecht), the writer (Brynn Thayer), the fitness consultant (Haley Strode), the lawyer (Robert Trebor), the bimbo (Fiona Gubelmann), the movie star (Jay Huguley) and a delightful Greek chorus of waiters all named Bruce (Daniel Montgomery, Demetrius Keone Thomas, Amanda Kruger, Matt Austin and Clent Bowers).
Although farces about Tinseltown are tricky to pull off — they often quickly devolve into caricature and come with a heavy dose of anger from envious playwrights — Lefcourt’s play avoids all those pitfalls, as he obviously has been swimming in these waters for years and knows the players intimately. ??Like most fine comedy, the play is based on truth; you can’t make this stuff up. And the playwright adds another important ingredient to the mix: He maintains an odd affection for all his characters, as shallow, superficial and narcissistic as they might be.
Hanauer does a bang-up job of directing, letting loose a stellar cast of actors to perform at their creative best while still holding a firm rein over the tone of the piece. Her use of imaginative props, music, choreography (Tracy Silver) and costumes (Shon Le Blanc) add immeasurably to the evening.??The cast is outstanding. Huguley is picture-perfect as the narcissistic star, Briggs is a hyperactive wonder as the agent, Gubelmann shines as the bimbo with a 165 IQ, Hecht captures the essence of the Hollywood realtor, Siegel is marvelous as the mommy exec, Trebor is terrific as the lawyer, Thayer nails the lesbian writer role, Harrold is unforgettable as the aging diva, Silver is a suitably desperate producer and Strode is perky perfection as the personal-fitness consultant. The Bruces also feature several standouts — including Montgomery, Thomas and a silver-throated Bowers.
Venue: The Skylight Theatre, Los Angeles (Through Nov. 15)
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Michael B. Silver, Kate Siegel, Joe Briggs, Gina Hecht, Brynn Thayer, Haley Strode, Robert Trebor, Fiona Gubelmann, Jay Huguley, Daniel Montgomery, Demetrius Keone Thomas, Amanda Kruger, Matt Austin, and Clent Bowers
Playwright: Peter Lefcourt
Director: Terri Hanauer
Costumes: Shon Le Blanc
AN AMERICAN FAMILY
Before I begin this review, I have to admit it, I have to come clean – I am a pretend, wannabe, counter-culture hipster who tends to be mistrusting of anything that comes out of Hollywood, except summer blockbuster movies (I mean, have you SEEN “The Avengers”!?!?) and the Hemsworth brothers (yum!). So naturally, I was apprehensive about reading this novel, given that I did not know very much about author Peter Lefcourt. So with that being said, I also confess to you…I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong – all my apprehensions were unfounded, and arbitrary, because this book is one of the best books I’ve read this year!
The story is about the Perls – a family on Long Island, and follow them over a course of three generations. Author Lefcourt’s narrative is full of subtly nuanced characters that are fiercely real, and the saga of a family that you will be able to relate to, on multiple levels. The story begins on a historical day, the assassination of President Kennedy, and then takes through the many milestones and historical events that the Perl family witnesses, such as the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and September 11th. The story revolves around the ten main characters – the first of which is Meyer, who has a penchant for theater actresses, and is a tailor by profession. Then there is Nathan, who becomes the male head of the family. Also, we meet a young and misguided lawyer who is constantly running after the ladies and booze named Jackie, with connections in all the wrong places. My favorite, Elaine, is the one who is living a life of discontent, wanting more than to just be a mother and a teacher. Also, there is Michael, the ambitious one, trying to make a fortune and name for himself. An artist, but struggling to define his talent and his sexuality, there is the young and beautiful character of Stephen. And then, there is Bobbie (Roberta), the rebellious one, a hippie, a free-spirit trying to cram too much, too fast into her life.
What author Lefcourt has done in this novel is that he has highlighted the slow progression and evolution of an American family. We also witness the contrast between generations – from the older generation, with an immigrant mentality, to the next generation struggling to assimilate and define their own place in the American society, down to the new generation, liberal and accepting and breaking free of the bounds of traditions, to step into the society as home-grown Americans. This is a family full of colorful, vibrant and neurotic characters, and I’m sure you will find at least ONE (if not many) characters in this novel who will remind of you a certain uncle, or a cousin, or another. It is the believability of these characters, and the reader accompanying them on the journey through the times, and their growth and evolution that make this novel a true gem. Like good ol’ American pie — this book is delightful, refreshing, sweet and an instant CLASSIC!