Love & Money & Aging Gracefully

Love & Money & Aging Gracefully

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH A.R. GURNEY, MARK LAMOS AND MAUREEN ANDERMAN

A.R. “Pete” Gurney’s newest play, Love & Money, brings us Cornelia Cunningham—a wealthy Manhattan widow who, since she is well past that famously undefined certain age, has decided to give away her riches before she dies.  Affluent and sheltered her entire life, she finally sees the world around her.  She wants to help people who need it, and she is determined to do so despite the expectations of her lawyers and her heirs.

“She’s giddy with the power she has,” explains director Mark Lamos.  “She’s exultantly divesting, getting rid of old baggage and getting a new take on life.”

Love & Money by AR Gurney

But it’s Cornelia’s new take on life that creates the conflict in Love & Money which debuts July 21 at the Westport Country Playhouse before moving to the Signature Theatre in Manhattan.  It’s a conflict we’ll all face, whether, like Cornelia, we are deciding to whom we leave our millions or who really wants a six-year-old Toyota.

“We live in a consumerist culture,” says Gurney, “and over the years we acquire an awful lot of stuff we carry around with us for years.  But toward the end of your life, you begin to think, ‘Do I need this many sweaters?  Why do I have all these ties?  I never wear a necktie.’”

A.R. Gurney and his wife, both in their 80s, agree that it’s time to live a simpler life.  “We think people should enjoy what’s left in life without worrying so much about how many houses you have, what possessions you have, cars you own.  I began to think I could write a play about how it feels to tighten your grip on life by not being so responsive to possessions.”

Love & Money is about just that.

Cornelia is played by Maureen Anderman, who has appeared in Gurney’s plays before.  She’s a fan.  “I love him,” she says, “He just touches my heart.”  The play itself aimed for her heart, as well.  Anderman’s mother is 92; her step-mother-in-law is going to be 95.  And now there’s Cornelia.  “I have this triangle with these three women.  I see different ways people approach the end of their lives, where—and when—they want their money, their possessions, to go.”

Mark Lamos is no stranger to Gurney’s work, either.  They met over 30 years ago, and this will be the sixth play that they worked together on.  “When Pete wrote Love & Money, he had Maureen in mind for his leading lady and me as director,” says Lamos.  “It’s a huge pleasure because we are all friends as well as colleagues.  Friendships have a great influence on my working relationships.”

Mark Lamos and A.R.Gurney.  Photo by Peter Chenot

Mark Lamos and A.R.Gurney.
Photo by Peter Chenot

And on A.R. Gurney’s as well.  “Cornelia was sort of based on my wife’s grandmother who did what Cornelia wants to do in the play,” says Gurney.  “When I finished writing Love & Money, I gave it to Mark, he gave me some suggestions, and then I still wasn’t happy with it, and so I said let’s have a reading with Maureen to see how it ‘lands’ with actors reading the script.”  Based on that, Gurney did some major rewriting.

On Acting In Your Second Act of Life

“I was a little concerned,” Maureen Anderman admits.  “I spent a lot of time learning the script, and then there was a new version.  My memory isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be.”

Gurney wasn’t worried.  “Maureen’s been wonderful, always been wonderful with lines,” he says, although he knows memorizing a script isn’t easy.  “We live in a culture which isn’t interested in memorizing very much, so it’s tough, and when you get older, it’s tougher still.”

Mark Lamos says he loves working with older actors although, he concedes that it may take more patience.  “Memorizing an entire evening of theatre is more daunting for them.  I know I wouldn’t be able to do it!”

“Memory is a muscle,” says Anderman.  “It may take longer, but as actors, it’s what we do.”

Lamos feels that age affects everything, not just memory, but mostly in positive ways.  “Having worked in the theatre for over half my life—I’m 69—there are few challenges in it that I won’t face.  For one thing, I’m no longer intimidated by anybody.  Often, I’m the oldest person in the room!  But I’ve worked in so many theatrical genres that I have a store of knowledge I can draw on show after show.  You can’t completely rely on past knowledge, but that’s just one of the things that make life in the arts exciting.”

Maureen Anderman’s career spans the same years as Lamos’ but with a break to raise children.  “I had a really full career, but I chose to be with them,” she recalls.  “I still worked—TV, regional theatre—but I didn’t do a lot of work in New York.  And last year, one of my daughters got married and I took time off to help her.  I couldn’t learn a role and be there for her at the same time.”

“I’ve had a lucky career.  I usually had work when I wanted it.”  Anderman pauses to think.  “My 40’s was a tricky time.  It’s a tricky time for an actress, but if you hang on long enough, the roles come back.”

Fewer of them, however.  Mark Lamos says he doesn’t see a lot of new writing for older actors which disappoints him.  “They are so amazingly valuable.  Great talents with a lifetime of experience.  What thoroughbreds they are.”

At 84, A.R. Gurney sometimes questions his own creative mood.  When asked to write a new play, which turned out to be Love & Money, “I rolled my eyes, but I decided I’d try.  My kids are always teasing me because ten years ago I said that’s it.  That’s the last one.  I don’t want to do any more of this, but then… I’m kind of an addict.  I’m happiest when I’m sitting in front of the computer writing.”

Love & Money, AR Gurney, photo by Walter Kurtz

AR Gurney
Photo by Walter Kurtz

“Aging of course takes its toll on brain cells and physical abilities,” Lamos agrees.  “So I do my best to keep in shape, work out daily, keep the brain cells buzzing, and eat carefully.  I do what I can to stay healthy as I can.  I owe it to the work I do and the people I love—and to myself.”

Anderman believes that the support of fellow actors helps.  “I have three of my dearest friends, we are all actresses, and we meet four times a year for lunch.  We keep this going, we share, we support and help each other.”

What helps us age gracefully?  Exercise, keeping brain cells buzzing, eating right, friendship—and according to A.R. Gurney, one last thing.  “I discovered one of the pleasantest things about getting old.  Taking a nap.  I never took naps before, but now I look forward to it.”

The world premiere of Love & Money takes place at the Westport Playhouse on July 21. 

 

by Sherri Daley

 

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