Despite a highly successful playwriting career, Donald Margulies has not had much luck with “The Model Apartment.” For convoluted reasons the 30-year-old play has not yet enjoyed a fully successful production in New York. Ironically, when Primary Stages produced the work in 1995, critics were enthusiastic and the play won an OBIE. But it folded quickly when the lead actor jumped ship.
The play, opening October 15, is now being given a new lease on life. Primary Stages is reviving the dark comedy about aging Holocaust survivors, whose inability to deal with their own tortured history has shaped their grown daughter’s troubled life.
Margulies believes the zeitgeist is right for the play. Perhaps it’s taken three decades for audiences simply to “accept a post-modern take on the Holocaust,” he speculated during a phone interview from his New Haven home. “We’ve now had Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus.’ This is ‘Oy Vey!’ humor. It’s irreverent. Previously, the play might have seemed untouchable.”
“This is not a sentimental play,” he continued. “It’s just the opposite. I’m demystifying the Holocaust by bringing the enormity of the event into a prosaic setting. Max and Lola are once again fleeing. But this time, they’re fleeing from their daughter. The challenge is to demystify without being disrespectful. I love all the characters.”
Set in the 1980s, the Holocaust couple (played by Mark Blum and Kathryn Grody) takes refuge in an ill-functioning but perfectly appointed model apartment in Florida. When their morbidly obese daughter and her African-American boyfriend (Diane Davis and Hubert Point-Du Jour) surface shortly thereafter, the already dysfunctional family spirals out of control. They all suffer from distorted memories that evoke nightmarish imagery.