By Denny Patterson
Veronica’s Position by Richard Orloff will be making its debut premiere at Island City Stage on May 31, 2019. The show will run through June 30, 2019. In the style of The Little Dog Laughed and The Goldberg Variations, Veronica’s Position is a classy, but sassy comedy about a fading stage star, her naughty ex-husband, her right-wing Senator fiancé, and her homosexual assistant who all become embroiled in love, politics, and an ill-conceived production of Hedda Gabler. Orloff’s shows are guaranteed to be a laugh riot. With his plays receiving over 2,000 productions and numerous awards, his plays range widely in style and subject matter, but they all combine irreverence and compassion. I had the pleasure of chatting more with Orloff about Veronica’s Position.
Veronica’s Position sounds like a fantastic show. Can you give us a little more info as to what it’s about?
It is fantastic – and fabulous, too! Set in a swanky Washington, D.C. hotel room in 1990, Veronica’s Position is a comedy about a pair of twice-married and twice-divorced movie stars who reluctantly reunite to perform in a play and who end up in the middle of a political storm involving a controversial gay photographic artist. Any resemblance between my characters and Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, and Senator John Warner is, of course, purely coincidental.
And it’s making its South Florida premier at Island City Stage, correct? How exciting is that to you?
On a scale of 1-10, about 12. Last summer, Island City Stage included two of my short comedies, Defenders of the Tender Gender Bender and The Crass Menagerie, in Shorts Gone Wild. I was very pleased with the results. Also, I have been a big fan of director Michael Leeds ever since I saw his witty and stylish production of Swingin’ On a Star on Broadway.
Are you a South Florida native?
I am not a Florida native, but I have been to Florida over a dozen times and have become very fond of the state. City Theatre has presented several of my short comedies in Summer Shorts, and I had three plays premiere at the Key West Theatre Festival.
What do you hope audiences take away from this show?
Mostly, I am hoping that audiences will leave exhausted from laughing. There are probably as many laughs in this play as in anything I have ever written.
What inspired you to write this show?
Years ago, I met someone who worked on the ill-fated Broadway revival of Private Lives with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. When she told me what the experience was like, I thought, “Now that would make a good comedy.” However, it was just a situation and not a story. But I kept thinking about the characters over time, and one night, much to my surprise, they started arguing about Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial photographic artist. Suddenly the play had a little more meat on it, and I was able to develop the story from there.
How did the writing process go for you? How long did it take for you to finish the piece?
It usually takes me about a year to write a full-length play, but that “year” is usually spread out over several years. I spend a lot of time mulling about a play and making oodles of notes before I start writing “Act One, Scene One.” It usually only takes about a month to write a first draft, but then there are many drafts that follow.
What is your goal as a playwright?
My primary goal is to engage the audience and take them on a fun ride. Since I generally write comedies, that is a challenging goal. I also hope to move audiences and give them something to think about – without ever preaching to them.
So, you lean more towards comedy than drama?
All my plays have humor in them, but I let the story dictate how much. Sometimes I just want a play to be as funny and fun as possible. In other plays, I want every moment to be real and believable and to unearth the humor in human situations. Veronica’s Position is probably in the middle of this spectrum; it is a heightened world, I felt like I was channeling the voice of Noel Coward at times, but I also think there is substance in the issues at the heart of the play.
Without giving anything away, is there a part within the show that is your absolute favorite?
Yes [laughs]. I will leave it at that.
Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
Thanks for asking! Two projects are coming up. On the other side of Florida in late September 2019, Theatre Conspiracy in Fort Myers will produce my comedy, Engagement Rules, winner of their 2019 New Play Contest. The play is about an unplanned pregnancy which creates a rupture in a relationship. It is one of my more serious works, but I have still worked hard to find the honest and very human humor in the story. Meanwhile, I have begun performing my first one-person show, which has become quite an adventure. It’s a Beautiful Wound is about my journey in underground therapy with psychedelics. So far, I have performed it in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Arizona, and I will be performing it around the country over the rest of the year. I would love to bring it to South Florida!