A&E: Play, Playwright Poke Fun at Politics, Politicians

Caption: Playwright Rich Orloff’s comedy, “Veronica’s Position,” opens at Island City Stage on May 31. Credit: RichOrloff.com

It’s just May 2019 and the 2020 presidential election campaign is already in full swing. Recent surveys show that even voters who care about politics are feeling apprehensive about the 18 months ahead.

Island City Stage is offering a nostalgic look at the machinations in our nation’s capital with the South Florida premiere of Rich Orloff’s “Veronicas Position,” opening May 31 at Wilton Theater Factory in Wilton Manors. 

The sophisticated comedy about a fading stage star, her errant ex-husband, her fiancé who is a right-wing senator and her gay assistant who all become embroiled in love, politics and an ill-conceived production of “Hedda Gabler” is set in 1990 while Washington is buzzing about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

“At the time I wrote it, [the plot] seemed very edgy,” recalled Orloff. “It’s interesting how much worse American politics have gotten—better for gay rights, but worse in so many other ways. There’s an innocence to the play that I never intended when I wrote it.”

If the storyline seems oddly familiar, it is. The idea for the play was suggested by a friend of Orloff’s who was working on a production of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. (“Now there’s a comedy,” said Orloff.) One of Taylor’s other ex-husbands, John Warner, happened to be former Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner. And Orloff’s friend—who was gay—had lots of stories to share about the off-stage antics of the on-again, off-again lovers.

“I write comedies. It was important that the play be engaging and fun and not a lecture. Audiences have been quite pleased, so far,” Orloff reported.

Island City is presenting the eleventh production of the play. Audiences in the Northeast, Los Angeles, Memphis and even Vienna, Austria quickly embraced Orloff’s comedy. The show was also optioned for a Broadway production that was never realized.

Orloff, who will only admit to be “old enough to know better,” got a “late” state to playwrighting.

“I wrote my first play when I was 11,” he said. “For the first 10 years of my life, I was a total goof off. Actually, the theater bug bit me at an early age. I’m not even sure I had seen a play at 11, but when I walk into a theater, I still get goosebumps.”

Over the course of his career, he’s written for newspapers and magazines and scripted education videos. (“You name it, I’ve written it,” he chuckled.) But, his inner voice kept telling him he was a playwright, a destiny he finally embraced in his twenties.

Most recently, he’s found himself on stage, performing “It’s a Beautiful Wound,” a one-man show he penned.

“It’s quite humbling after 30 years of writing plays to get on the damn stage. I’ve always appreciated actors, but my awareness is definitely heightened,” he said, “and I’m definitely improving my (acting] skills.”

As for the actors who will be bringing his characters to life on stage in Wilton Manors, Orloff has complete trust in Island City Stage’s associate artistic director Michael Leeds. The two met in New York City when Leeds was the Tony-nominated director of “Swinging on a Star.”

“I know he will get the humor, but also the world that I’ve created,” Orloff said, a world without tweets and political assassination.

Island City Stage presents Rich Orloff’s “Veronicas Position,” May 31 – June 30 at Wilton Theater Factory, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets start at $38 at IslandCityStage.org.