One afternoon, my son Reuben climbed into the car after a day at the Crowden School in Berkeley, where he was an eighth-grader.
“Mom, guess what? I got the lead part in the play!”
“Wow, good for you! What play?” I headed south on Sacramento Street, actually kind of proud of myself for not knowing what play—and for knowing only vaguely of the auditions. I was trying not to be over-involved.
“It’s by Woody Allen. Don’t Drink the Water.”
“And you’re the main character?”
“The Woody Allen part?”
“I guess,” Reuben shrugged.
“Cool!” I enthused, stifling a giggle that Reuben seemed not to know that with his wire-rimmed glasses, slight frame, chronic allergies and class-clownishness, he’d been typecast. I felt remiss that we hadn’t gotten around to watching videos of the Woody Allen films as a family the way we’d run through Hitchcock.
But then, maybe that was because Allen’s movies hit a little too close to home for me. My father was a short, wiry, balding Jewish guy with tortoise-shell glasses—plus the pacing, anxiety and narcissism to complete the picture.
“So your character—is he kind of neurotic?” I asked Reuben.
“Oh.” I paused. “Well, is he a hypochondriac?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You know, someone who always thinks there’s —”
“Mom! I know what a hypochondriac is.”
“But I mean,” I persisted, “the guy you’re playing, is he just kind of—annoying?”
“No, Mom, he’s fine. Do you have a Kleenex? I needa blow my nose.”
Maybe there was such a thing as a Woody Allen play without Woody Allen as the main character. It was a theoretical possibility, right? Like a cloak of invisibility? I’d have to look up Don’t Drink the Water.
But then I forgot, and the weeks flew by. Soon it was time for us to go see the play.
And there was Reuben on the stage, playing—pure Woody Allen. Pacing, hyperventilating, obsessing, complaining about an itchy mohair sweater. Oh my God, I thought—he thinks this is normal behavior! Oy!
In other words, he was great.
There’s no escaping genes, I guess. Thanks, Dad.
Published in the Piedmont Post, November 18, 2009