The king of farce’s new play is impressed by his mother and father’ love letters


JTA — It’s possible you’ll not know who Ken Ludwig is, however you nearly actually know his work.

Ludwig is the reigning king of theatrical farce. Amongst his 28 performs are six that made it to Broadway and 7 to London’s West Finish, together with “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Loopy for You,” “Moon Over Buffalo” and “20th Century.”

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They’ve earned him a passel of awards — a number of Tonys and Oliviers, amongst others — and have been carried out world wide. A current tally revealed there are roughly 1,000 productions of a Ludwig play within the US alone yearly.

However his newest is essentially completely different from the door-slamming, slapstick comedies that made him well-known.

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“Pricey Jack, Pricey Louise,” now taking part in on the Enviornment Stage in Washington, DC, is an epistolary love story, a Jewish model of A.R. Gurney’s in style “Love Letters.” It’s at instances humorous and poignant and, extra essential, primarily based on the life experiences of Ludwig’s mother and father, Jacob Ludwig and Louise Rabiner.

The play is about in 1942. Jack, as Jacob most popular to be known as, grew up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and was drafted into the army shortly after graduating from medical college, the place he handled wounded troopers getting back from the Pacific. Louise, a graduate of New York’s Excessive Faculty of Music & Artwork, is a would-be showgirl.

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Each their fathers have been immigrant tailors from Russia they usually recommend the couple start a correspondence. They do and step by step get to know one another, writing nearly each day.

Generally, it’s only a sentence or two, a brief missive to reassure the opposite that every one is nicely. Generally, the letters are commentaries on the day’s occasions. Louise writes about her auditions; Jack regularly describes his failed makes an attempt to get a depart so he can come meet her. However they slowly begin to reveal themselves, and it’s clear that each like what they uncover.

In an interview, Ludwig says the play is barely primarily based on his mother and father’ correspondence. His mom destroyed the precise letters — apparently, Ludwig thinks, as a result of they contained intimacies not appropriate for public consumption.

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So, whereas a lot of the play is fiction, the blissful ending will not be. Jack and Louise have been in actual fact married for 50 years and raised two kids, Ken and his brother, Eugene, in York, Pennsylvania. The comparatively small city had “a thriving Jewish group,” together with three synagogues.

The Ludwigs belonged to the Reform temple, presided over by a rabbi — an “Emma Goldman, radical leftist Reform rabbi,” in Ludwig’s description — who most popular no yarmulkes or Hebrew in his providers. Ludwig celebrated his bar mitzvah and his affirmation within the synagogue.

Annually, Ludwig would go to Louise’s mother and father in Brooklyn, a visit that at all times included not less than one Broadway present. That’s the place his coronary heart was, in theater.

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Ludwig started writing performs in highschool. Whereas his mother and father have been supportive of his ambition, they acknowledged “the possibilities of making a dwelling writing performs is so minuscule, they wished me to get a level so I’d have one thing to fall again on,” he stated.

Ludwig did them proud. Not solely did he get an undergraduate diploma, he graduated from Harvard Legislation Faculty, and even went to Cambridge College in England to main in restoration drama, a subject involved with performs written in England within the 17th century — an esoteric topic if there ever was one.

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It was solely after he began working as a lawyer in Washington, DC, that Ludwig started concentrating on performs, typically writing for 4 hours within the morning earlier than heading to the workplace for his day job.

It took a few years, however his first play — concerning the legendary romance between the 11th-century French nun Heloise and Peter Abelard, a French thinker and theologian — really was profitable. After operating in a Washington basement, the play was picked up for a quick off-Broadway run.

Ludwig won’t say how outdated he’s or present dates for his early performs, however his first Broadway present, “Lend Me a Tenor” (1989), established his place within the firmament.

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What are his hopes for “Pricey Jack, Pricey Louise”?

“Like every playwright, my hope is that it will get produced rather a lot all through the US and Europe,” Ludwig stated. “I write as a result of I need individuals to see my play. I need individuals to like my play. I need individuals to search out themselves in my play.”

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