Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions from West of the Hudson coming to FringeNYC's 20th Season
An Interview with Alexander Janosek Doyle
Indie Theater Now asked Alexander Janosek Doyle a few questions about his play Is That Danny DeVito? And Other Questions From West of the Hudson.
What’s this play about? Please give us a brief synopsis (a sentence or two) and also talk about what you believe to be the most important theme(s) in the play.
This play, ostensibly a comedy about quirky, sometimes caustic conversations between two young men as they wait for a bus, is a stylistic and structural homage to absurdist plays, especially Beckett's Waiting For Godot. Like Godot, There is a darkness lurking beneath the comedy: the two protagonists grapple with their own dissatisfaction with their lives and sense of powerlessness to change them.
Why did you want to write about this subject/theme?
This play actually began as a writing exercise for me; an attempt to understand and capture some of Beckett's signature rhythms and musicality of dialogue, but the deeper I went, the more I realized that Beckett's themes of desperation and inability to change seemed oddly relevant to the young adult (some might say millennial) experience. In that way the play quickly became a voice for my own fears and anxieties, but also helped me to recognize them in the works of others. I like to think that this play would A. give people a decent evening of comedy, but B. perhaps help others realize that they're not so alone in their frustrations.
How did you decide what names to give the characters in this play?
Of the four characters in the play, two are given names: The young friends Dusty and Geoff, two young men in their twenties. Both are struggling with feelings of constraint and failure that they only partially understand. Dusty, who more obviously lacks direction (or the wherewithal to follow one) has a name taken from the Kansas lyric "all we are is dust in the wind". Geoff, more cynical but less self-aware, is named for the writer Geoffrey Chaucer, a decision which admittedly made a lot more sense way back when this project started. Our other two characters are deliberately unnamed (although their names are speculated on), a choice I think is actually a lot of fun for the audience.
Describe your writing process. Do you write longhand, on a computer, a tablet? Do you write every day? Do you outline the play beforehand?
Contemplating what my writing process looks like from the outside causes embarrassment: On a good day, one that I've set aside to get some work done, I'm likely to be found half-dressed, on the couch hunched over a laptop with a blanket over my shoulders like a shawl. The TV is on but muted. On such a day I might write anywhere from 2 to 20 pages of varying quality. I know I'm not the only writer who's finished such a day with next to nothing written but a brilliantly cleaned apartment. I work off of an outline but rarely stick to it; I like to think that having a B+ treatment on paper frees my mind to explore new developments, and I finish with a good deal more than I had at the beginning.
Is there a character in this play that you particularly identify with? Which one, and why?
Those who know me have often remarked that watching the two main characters is not unlike watching me argue with myself. This is rarely meant as a compliment, never taken as one, and totally accurate. The play was certainly not meant to be autobiographical, but somehow, perhaps subconsciously, became a conversation between my right brain and my left brain (or perhaps between my depression and anxiety). If this is the case I like to think that I avoided the trap of making a character based on myself too virtuous; flawed characters are always more fun to watch than noble ones, straight up despicable ones better still. The comedy of the piece is, for me, pretty clearly rooted in pathos, and the fact that while we might identify with these characters, we're not so sure we'd like to spend much time with them.
posted July 29, 2016
Alexander Janosek Doyle