David Tolchinsky's Debut Play To Premiere In New York
"Where's the Rest of Me?" tackles monologues, mental illness and movies
Inspired by the manic anxiety of his prominent psychiatrist father and monologist Spalding Gray, screenwriter and Northwestern University Professor David E. Tolchinsky has written and directed his first play, “Where’s the Rest of Me?”
The autobiographical comedy, which weaves together themes of mental illness, monologues and movies, premieres Feb. 14 at the Hudson Guild Theater in Manhattan.
“Three lives -- mine, my late father’s and Spalding Gray’s -- all overlap with the plot of the classic movie ‘Kings Row’ in unexpected ways,” said Tolchinsky, director of Northwestern University’s MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage Program at the School of Communication.
Tolchinsky, a longtime Hollywood screenwriter (Sony’s “Girl”), first wrote “Where’s the Rest of Me?” as a monologue. It was published as an essay in Paraphilia Magazine before he adapted it into a play.
The basis for the drama evolved from events in Tolchinsky’s own life, including the time he spent studying with Spalding Gray at a writers’ residency. Tolchinsky said he was mesmerized by Gray’s presence and comic genius. But Tolchinsky was also disturbed by Gray’s anxiety, a trait he saw in his own father, Yale psychiatry Professor Marshall Edelson.
“My father seemed to be terrified of everything -- children, bacteria, cats, raccoons, packed boxes, phone solicitors, public bathrooms -- even state borders,” Tolchinsky said. “If you opened a shade or a window in the house, my father would shut it within minutes. He kept all the doors to the outside deadbolted, even though it was a fire hazard.”
Tolchinsky said his father also was a big movie collector who owned 7,000 DVDs at the time of his death. “He was especially obsessed with ‘Kings Row,’ which he thought was the greatest movie ever made and one that I had to watch repeatedly from the age of six.”
In the 1942 film “Kings Row,” Drake, played by Ronald Reagan, has both legs unnecessarily amputated by a surgeon. Upon waking up and finding that his legs are missing, Drake screams, “Where’s the REST of me?!” Drake’s psychiatrist friend, Parris, played by Robert Cummings, then works to heal him.
“Parris was my dad’s inspiration for becoming a psychiatrist, but there were more insidious connections to the movie than that,” Tolchinsky said.
Though best known for writing screenplays, Tolchinsky said he has enjoyed stretching his wings by writing and directing a play.
“I love putting these three seemingly unconnected worlds together on stage at the same time,” he said. “I love combining live actors with a movie screen. And I love that one of my actors has to transform from one character to another to another in a sometimes humorous, sometimes moving way. That’s something you can’t do in cinema.”
A darkly funny show, “Where’s the Rest of Me?” is produced by Jessy Lynn and stars Greg Peace as Dave, Evan Brenner as Spalding Gray, Armand Eisen as Marshall Edelson and Camara McLaughlin as all the other characters.
The play can be seen at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W. 26th St. in New York, Feb. 14 and 15, at 5 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. as part of Series E of the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Play Festival. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.