Susan Sandler, screenwriter of the 1988 romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey,” scored a double hit last month when her latest project, a play titled “Under the Bed,” enjoyed its world premiere in Boca Raton, Fla. Not only did the show garner an enthusiastic response from the audience, but the playwright’s father, Morris, himself a Boca resident, was able to be among those applauding.
The older Sandler, who moved to Boca a few years ago, regaled the Forward with tales of his daughter’s earliest literary triumphs. While growing up in Newport News, Va., she “was editor of her school paper, writing poetry and prose. I knew that passion would consume her and propel her to her life’s career,” he said. She currently teaches screenwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Sandler’s new play delves into the interior lives of a group of Florida senior citizens. It touches on such challenges as how an aging lass is to make do in a world where women outnumber men by what sometimes seems like a ratio of 16-to-1.
After a reading at the 92nd Street Y last year, featuring Olympia Dukakis, “Under the Bed” was nominated for Newsday’s Oppenheimer Award for Best New American Play.
Sandler has come a long way from the days when she wrote the semiautobiographical “Crossing Delancey.”
“At the time,” she told the Forward, “I was single, like the girl in the movie, and when my bubbe came to visit me in New York she said I lived like a dog, with bars on the window, and deplored the fact that I was still single.”
Much has changed since then. She’s now married to Hugh Conlon, a learning specialist, with whom she spends winters in New York and summers in Nantucket, Mass. — along with the occasional trip to Florida.
This trip was particularly sweet. “Coming down here was such a ball,” she said. “This audience, which gave me a standing ovation on opening night, has brought such humor and heart and love for the characters. It’s been a real blessing for me, on every level, both personally and professionally.” The next step, she said, is taking the play off-Broadway.
Looking lovingly at her father, the award-winning playwright said: “My father is my muse, my inspiration. He’s a very good observer of the contemporary scene himself. I guess that’s where I got it.”