Saturday, April 24, 2010

Defining Addiction

My new play Moving Day, running through May 1 at the Kraine Theater is a story of addiction.

On the surface, it tells the tale of Max, a recovering heroin addict.  The play takes places on the "front stoop" of the family home in Greenpoint he shares with his sister, Emily.  Max is clean from heroin, moving away from Brooklyn, escaping to the small town of Franconia, New Hampshire to start his life over.  But, looking deeper, we see Max also has an addiction to an unhelathy relationship with his soon to be ex-wife Melinda.  And as we learn more about Emily and her "fake" boyfriend Steven, we can see their addictions as well.

I never intended to write a play about addiction.  I wanted to write a play about what happens on the front stoop of a house in Brooklyn, because I saw so many things happen there when I was growing up.  But, when I started writing, I started realizing all of the characters were addicted to something, chemical or otherwise and I became fascinated by that.  I began to think about what really defines addiction and came to the realization that it is something you think you can't live without.  It doesn't have to be drugs, it can even be a person.  Something you're consumed by, that you spend every waking moment thinking about and every sleeping moment dreaming about.  Something you want all the time.

Moving Day is a very personal story for me because my uncle was addicted to heroin.  I never knew this until I was in my 20s.   My whole life, I had been conditioned to believe that heroin addicts were those strung out, desperate "junkies" (a word I absolutely loathe, but very often the first word associated with heroin addiction) in the park with that glazed look in their eyes.  But, that wasn't my uncle.  He was funny, charming and loving and yet he struggled with one of the worst chemical addictions there is.  He had nicknames for everyone in our family -- I was Himo, my sister was Taco, my grandmother and grandfather were Bozo and Spitzy, and his sister was simply Sister.  He loved the ocean, kept a salt water fish tank and went scuba diving any chance he got.

One of my most vivid memories of my uncle is not a childhood one.  I was an adult, working in midtown, walking to my bus after work and he was on the corner, waiting for his estranged wife outside her office.  She had recently moved out and left him.  He just wanted to talk to her, he said.  What I remember so clearly was the sadness in his eyes.  The only word I can use to describe him is broken.  

My uncle's voice spoke to me in the character of Max.  Max's voice was the loudest of all the characters.  I kept trying to ignore it, to silence the sadness he wanted me to write about but I couldn't.  He wanted me to tell his story.  I am proud to share his story with anyone who wants to listen.  Moving Day is for you, Uncle Mikie, I love you with all my heart.

Moving Day runs through May 1 at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003.  Tickets are available through Fourth Arts Block.

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