The Fountain Theatre has a ridiculously good knack for acquiring the hottest new scripts on (or off) the market. When I read that Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living had won this year’s Pulitzer Prize earlier this spring, I knew the title sounded familiar. I flipped back through my emails and sure enough, it had been mentioned in a press release announcing the Fountain Theatre’s current season. With its new prestigious international award, I imagined that Cost of Living could suddenly be stripped from the Fountain’s season, for a West Coast premiere at a larger, more mainstream company.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I’m standing outside the Fountain before the show catching up with James, one of my favorite producers here in LA. He is such a man of the people and in an industry that is so ironically competitive, I love that he is out there on the sidewalk talking to his patrons and telling it how it is. He’s the best. The Fountain is so lucky to have him on their team and they know it. “We actually got the rights to the show just a day or two before it won the Pulitzer,” he told me. And once that went down there was no looking back.
Arianne, champion LA theatre goer and planner extraordinaire, had organized a girls group of five of us to see the show that night. A recent addition to the Road Theatre Board, Arianne is so inspiringly passionate about theatre in Los Angeles. Naturally, we get along very well. If you would like to get receive Arianne’s detailed calendar of LA theatre happenings, shoot me an email through my contact page. Anyway, thanks to Arianne’s efforts, I was so glad we could all come together to experience the theatre together, especially when it came to processing the themes of the show afterwards.
To be honest, it was a challenge for me to articulate my feelings about this play, which is why I am once again so late in getting up a response to it. Even outside after the show I struggled to make sense of what was happening in my brain and heart. Internally I felt so far removed from the struggles of the featured disabled characters, yet I related to the conflict within the relationships they had shared with us. Part of me was ashamed for even allowing myself to relate. I have full use of my natural legs, I’m not ridden to a wheelchair and for the most part I’m a pretty healthy woman. I run marathons. It would be completely ignorant for me to say that I truly relate to what these people are going through. But taking an even larger step back…I think maybe that could be the beauty of this play. As humans, we struggle in our marriages. We struggle financially. We grapple to identify our calling in life. We struggle to shape our identity. We are all human and we all struggle and Majok does a gorgeous job of illuminating that. Now take that thing you’re struggling with and add on not being able to bathe yourself without the help of another human. That next level sh%$. It kind of brings you back down to earth when you consider the sacrifices the disabled community makes every day, not by choice. So, I think this is a play we, simply as humans, need to experience, together.
This show is doing a phenomenal thing for representation in theatre. Rarely do we see people with these disabilities on stage, let alone roles written specifically for people with these disabilities. We’re still far off, but Majok takes us a step in the right direction. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Taper or Geffen pick this show up within the next year or two, I would recommend seeing it with the level of intimacy created by The Fountain. Although they typically extend for weeks (or months) at a time, I’m sure that many other companies are on a waiting list for rights for this one. Don’t miss your chance to see Cost of Living at the Fountain before it closes on December 16th.