Coen Brother Ethan Pens New Lesbian-Themed Play
Ethan Coen, nursing a black coffee in a midtown cafe at the end of a busy workday, is in no mood for compliments.
Don’t dare suggest, for example, that he might be growing as a playwright just because after years of making one-act plays he’s just delivered his first full-length work for the stage.
"That’s a hurtful thing to say to somebody - I don’t think I’m growing," says Coen, half of the successful moviemaking Coen brothers and only half-joking. "That sounds terrible."
It quickly becomes clear that a chat with Coen will veer into the surreal, just as many of his films do. He’s an introvert with a fondness for dark humor and a precise turn of phrase. He also might mess with you.
David Cromer, who directs Coen’s new play, "Women or Nothing," and has been a huge fan of the Coen brothers’ "Fargo," ’’Miller’s Crossing" and "The Big Lebowski," says meeting his idol wasn’t a disappointment.
"He’s everything you want him to be - this fascinating, hilarious, shambling, angry writer," says Cromer. "I was around someone who slung words really, really beautifully."
Coen, who turns 56 this month, has been writing plays for more than a decade but never tackled a full work until now. "It’s recreational. It’s part-time," he says. "I’m a play hobbyist. I’m a gentleman playwright."
His works until now have been mostly collections of bite-sized, noir one-act plays - exploring loathing in the workplace, fear of death, mixed romantic signals or the terminally lost.
He has packaged them - three to a pop - in "Almost an Evening," ’’Offices" and "Happy Hour," for the well-respected Atlantic Theater Company, which is producing the new one. He also contributed a playlet to the Broadway production of "Relatively Speaking" in 2011. ("My trip uptown," he calls it.)
Why he began writing plays is a mystery, even to the playwright. "I don’t know why. You know, it’s kind of like doing movies. You see a movie and you go, ’OK, I can try one of those. Maybe I could do that,’" he says. "It’s the same impulse: that would be fun."