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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot


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No, not the kind you think or might be hoping for. This is something entirely different.

On April 15th, the New York Times had an article that mentioned a show titled Scandal, referring to it as "purportedly brilliant and unproduced."

A few weeks ago, in the August 19 entry of his wonderful blog, Ken Levine happened to write about the show, as well, and praised it as highly, mentioning that "hopefully we'll finally get to see it soon."

I've read the play of Scandal. It's as good as its reputation. Nothing purported about it. Although, yes, it is at the moment unproduced.

Since I've headed off on my summer vacation to the Midwest Control Center in Chicago, clearin' the brush and avoidin' the protesters camped out front, I'm taking my own breather from the daily headlines. So, lounging at Camp Elisberg, it's a good time for a change of pace and look at the little-known, tortuous path that works of art take as they occasionally slip through the cracks and try to get seen.

Scandal is by the wonderful writer, Treva Silverman. Ms. Silverman has been a friend for years, but I admired her from afar long before that, seeing her name on an unfair number of great scripts for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for which she won two Emmys, including "Writer of the Year," a special award the TV Academy used to present. She wrote the episode where Lou and his wife separate. She created the character of 'Georgette.' She...well, she did so much more, on that show and elsewhere. And as Ken Levine notes, she did this when there weren't many women TV writers around. But she did it because she was simply so funny. And so joyously good.

Scandal actually began life as a stage musical. She collaborated with the legendary director/choreographer Michael Bennett, best known for A Chorus Line. The score was being written by Jimmy Webb, who did By the Time I Get to Phoenix and MacArthur Park. High cotton all around.

But it was the last show Michael Bennett worked on, because he died in the middle of preparation. And Scandal ended with it.

It was a difficult time, the loss of a significant friend far exceeding the loss even of a work so near to her. Silverman eventually went on to many other things. The material though sat on her shelf, unproduceable forever in that form as a musical. But the longer it sat, the more it gnawed at her. And she decided enough was enough and to do something about it. She would rewrite it as a play.

That's not as easy as it sounds. The entire piece had to be restructured, from old material that had previously-built to now, non-existent songs, to new material needed after removing songs that defined the characters and plot.

Scandal tells the story of an innocent, deeply-happy woman in her 30s who's married to her childhood sweetheart, and one day he breaks the devastating news that he wants to separate. Her safe world ripped apart, she realizes she's never experienced life, never experienced sex with anyone other than this one man, and so this naïve and utterly adorable woman decides to go to Europe and throw caution to the wind. And it's a comedy of disastrous errors .

It is the most gentle and achingly-sweet, filthy play I've ever read. It's also hilarious. Remember, for starters, this is from the writer of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Someone whose career work hones in on the core of people's character with intelligence, honesty and decency.

Much of the enduring reputation of Scandal comes from when the main character periodically stops the action and walks downstage to comment on what's just gone on in her life, and these monologues are riots. The action is almost as funny. And it's tender and touching throughout, as well, as you follow a desperately well-meaning, but utterly lost woman you can only adore.

Broadway is a long road with walls blocking the way that the public can't even imagine. The wonder of the theater isn't that great plays get put on, but that any do. However, the remarkable reality is the word-of-mouth that keeps giving a work life. And Scandal inches forward. There's a drumbeat that people hear and pass along. And one day, pages fall into the hands of the right actress who realizes with stark, protective clarity that she's holding a Tony Award in her grasp, and will tackle her agent to get a contract signed before someone else has a chance.

That it hasn't been made yet is a scandal. That it will is something left to winds of fate, and the ability of excellence to climb over walls.