The Commons of Pensacola is the latest in a growing genre of Madoff dramadies — swan-dives from grace à la Bernard L. Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme disaster. This focuses on the fallout of the family, as did Steven Levenson's recent The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. Woody Allen's recent film, "Blue Jasmine," gives Ruth Madoff a Blanche DuBois story track.
This new postscript is the work of another actress diversifying — Amanda Peet, who can't figure out the sudden popularity of the Madoff plot-peg. "I think I was just looking for some excuse to write a mother-daughter play, and this is what came to me," she offered. "My mom is 72 and single. It's a very special relationship when you have a parent who is both elderly and single — so I guess that I relate to that part of it. I was sort of interested in exploring the responsibilities that go along with that."
Did the prospect of writing herself a good role also prompt this new creative turn? "I think, in the very beginning, it did," she allowed, "then I pretty quickly realized it would benefit the play to have someone else play the daughter. Soon after I started writing, I was trying to think of women in their early 40s who are funny, gorgeous, and Jewish — who can act on stage. Sarah Jessica was a no-brainer.… Honestly, if you had a choice between Amanda Peet and Sarah Jessica Parker, who'd you pick?"
As a daughter of the disgraced, Parker found a lot to play here. "It's an interesting role, and there's a lot of moral ambiguity in the play that I'm curious about. The position that my character takes is very compelling. It's an interesting argument that she weighs.
"She comes to see her mother in Pensacola to try to convince her to do a documentary series. She thinks it's an opportunity to apologize for the unthinkable hardships her father has caused. The siblings have been affected — some can argue, not nearly as much as the victims of the crime, but the collateral damage just among the family members is pretty severe. In the case of my character, she's already rudderless. It's a story of people trying to survive in a brand-new environment."
This is Peet's second play — the first was condemned to her bottom desk-drawer, unproduced — and she has already started on a third. "At this point in my career," she said, "It's more fun to write because — not to sound whiny, but there aren't that many interesting roles for women in my age group. I was writing quite a lot in college and had some encouragement there to continue, but then I got sidetracked."
Ah, stardom can do that to a novice writer, but look at all the roles a writer can play!
All The Way
Bullets Over Broadway
Fly By Night
Of Mice and Men
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Realistic Joneses
The Velocity of Autumn
Tony n' Tina's Wedding