Paris Before The Crash
By Paul Ledoux and John Roby
Two Acts. Approximate running time 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Cast of 10: 5m. 5f. Chorus: 6f. Band: 8
Paris Before The Crash centers on an impossible love triangle and an absurdist battle between literary shooting stars.
Set in the Paris expatriate community of the late Twenties, the play is the story of young men and women burning their candles at both ends and dancing in the flames. It’s about risking your life for an ideal you can’t quite name, laughing in the face of disaster, exploring the forbidden and expecting fame. Anyone who’s dreamed of changing the world and hit a brick wall will recognize its heroes.
This is one of the most famous eras in our literary imagination, a time and place that has been visited and revisited by literati and romantic youth since Gertrude Stein’s mechanic, complaining about the wastrel habits of his assistant, coined the term, “lost generation.” But Paris Before The Crash offers a fresh perspective by focusing on lesser known members of that community.
The play is a work of fiction inspired by first person chronicles of the period, memoirs like Hemingway’s classic hatchet job A Moveable Feast, Glassco’s Memoirs of Montparnasse, Callaghan’s That Summer In Paris, McAlmon and Boyle’s Being Geniuses Together, nightclub owner Bricktop’s autobiography, the letters of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and many other primary source materials. Likewise, it is informed by works of auto-biographical fiction written during the period. The end result is a close-to-the-facts comedy of bad manners.
Primary action revolves around a love triangle involving: Kay Boyle, a struggling young novelist and single mother trying to fulfill her idealistic literary ambitions; Robert McAlmon, an iconoclastic gay writer famous for publishing Hemingway and Gertrude Stein; and John “Buffy” Glassco, a boyish pornographer and male prostitute whose literary ambitions have been overwhelmed by his weakness for the bohemian lifestyle. Their story, driven by the unfulfilled relationship between McAlmon and Kay, in some ways echoes thematic elements found in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.
Secondary action involves Morley Callaghan, an ambitious and naive young novelist who, caught in the middle of the Hemingway/Fitzgerald relationship, learns his literary heroes have feet of clay.
McAlmon’s disenchantment with Paris grows as Kay become involved with a Spartan cult run by Isadora Duncan’s brother Raymond, Buffy gets tangled up with The Princess of Sarawack, a scatterbrained British heiress and Zelda, ignored by her Hemmingway obsessed husband, goes slowly mad. McAlmon must overcome his cynicism and help his friends before he can put his life in Paris behind him..
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