October 9 - November 10, 1969
The Star Spangled Girl
Thoughts on The Star-Spangled Girl written about halfway through rehearsals
Neil Simon was once asked in an interview why he wrote comedies. I don't remember his exact reply, but the gist of it was that he didn't write comedies, people just laughed at some of his plays. One must take a similar approach to doing a play – all plays, not just plays by Neil Simon. If the director and actors of a "comedy" still find it funny after working on it for a week or so, this is a sign that something is wrong; because we are not after an effect, rather we are peeling away the layers of a play to find the truth or reality which lies at the core of the work. We are attempting to portray people, not gags. If there were to be one single summation to our approach to this play, this would come closest to being it.
The reality at the core of The Star-Spangled Girl is not a deeply complex one, but it is one which touches all of us in our everyday lives. The main working situation – two men of quite different temperments living and working together – is practically the same as The Odd Couple, but the latter play is harder, colder, somewhat harsher that this evening's piece. At the centre of The Odd Couple is a rather frightening loneliness; at the centre of The Star Spangled Girl is love. It is a gentle play.
However we must not be misled by this gentleness. The happy ending is deceptive. In the first place it is not an ending, but a beginning. The characters are quite changed – each compromising his and her highest ideals just a bit. There is a slight edge, a look toward an implied criticism of the middle-class ideal of marriage. The lyrics of "Carpet Man" (heard at the beginning of this production of the play) could well be a leitmotiv of the work:
"She'll walk all over you,
She knows she can –
'Cause you're the Carpet Man."
– Joel Miller