Against the most insurmountable odds, everyone in Hollywood is trying to peddle a screenplay. In Catherine Schreiber and Josh Grenrock’s one-act stage comedy at the Union Square Theatre, “Desperate Writers,” a pair of frustrated authors, who are also lovers, take extreme measures to win a hearing for their film script. When the show ran two years ago at the Edgemar Theater in Santa Monica, with Schreiber and Grenrock both in the cast, F. Kathleen Foley of the Los Angeles Times called it a “delightfully scathing send-up” and “a pointed lampoon that will tickle anyone who has been on the receiving end of the industry’s prevalent boorishness.”
In “Desperate Writers,” directed by Kay Cole (who starred as Maggie in the original Broadway production of “A Chorus Line”), the two writers, Ashley (Maddie Corman) and David (Jim Stanek), kidnap three movie producers (Bob Ari, Angel Desai and Christopher Durham), imprison them in a cage, and force them at gunpoint to listen to a reading of the script. But the situation quickly spirals out of control when the writers prove to be too kindhearted for their own good.
Schreiber, who grew up in Great Neck, L.I., and majored in English at Yale, is an actress who has appeared often on both stage and screen. Just in the last year, she has also become a Broadway producer, helping to bankroll “Next Fall” and “The Scottsboro Boys” (both nominated for Tony Awards) and investing in the stage version of “The King’s Speech” — set to debut in London this summer and to open in New York in the fall. Grenrock, who hails from Southern California, studied acting at Juilliard.
The two Jewish playwrights met while both were acting in a play in L.A., and have been writing partners ever since. Even though they have had screenplays optioned, they have never had one actually produced. (Only about a tenth of all screenplays that are bought actually get made into films.) “Desperate Writers” was itself originally written as a screenplay; the playwrights hope that the stage production will be the springboard to a film contract.
“Everyone said not to write about Hollywood,” Schreiber told The Jewish Week. “But we’ve always wanted to write about what we’ve been through.”
Schreiber has little empathy for the “heartless” producers who refuse to give aspiring writers any attention. “Everyone has dreams that they want to pursue,” she noted. “People just want to be seen and heard.”
Because the play contains several references to “getting your ducks in a row,” Schreiber has enterprisingly given out rubber ducks to Wolfgang Puck and other celebrities, and pulled ducks down the sidewalk with a leash to attract the notice of passers-by.
Grenrock said that writing the script was “cathartic.” He echoed Schreiber’s sentiments about the daunting challenges that writers face.
“No one wants to give anyone a break,” he noted. “No one wants to take a risk. Everyone is scrambling to come up with the next hit, and then everyone comes out with a knock-off. You can drive yourself crazy trying to guess the flavor of the month.”
The two main characters are, according to Grenrock, “non-Jews trapped in a Jewish industry. If you’re Jewish and you’re writing about the industry, it’s hard to write gentile.” Jews continue to dominate Hollywood, Grenrock added. But, as he pointedly asked, “Can people in the film business let Jewish flags fly? How Jewish are they once they become assimilated into the industry?”
“Desperate Writers” runs at the Union Square Theater, 110 E. 17th St. at Park Avenue South. Performances are Monday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. For tickets, $65, call Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.