PERSONAL: Born in NJ.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Screenwriter Correspondence, Miramax Films, 375 Greenwich St., New York, NY 10013.
CAREER: Playwright and screen and television writer, 1993—. Plays have been produced at Vineyard Theater, New Harmony Project, Naked Angels, and Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Hysterical Blindness (two-act play; first produced Off-Off Broadway at Naked Angels, 1993), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 2000, adapted for film by Cahill, Home Box Office (HBO), 2002.
Mercy (two-act play; produced Off-Broadway at Vineyard Theater, 1998), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 2000.
Also author of the plays Home and Jersey Girls Go to the Park. Work represented in anthologies, including Marathon 1996, Smith & Kraus, 1996; 3 by E.S.T.: Three One-Act Plays Presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1997; and Best Short Plays of 1999, Applause, 2000. Author of pilot script for Warner Brothers Network. Has also adapted plays for film.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Three scripts for Miramax Films.
SIDELIGHTS: Laura Cahill's experiences growing up in northern New Jersey have been translated into comic plays about twenty-something singles trying to wrench meaning from mundane lives. Cahill's best-known work, Hysterical Blindness, was produced as a feature film in 2002 after a lengthy gestation as a play, and its themes of loneliness and desperation echo throughout her other works as well. In an interview with HBO Films, Cahill said that she is motivated to write about "what people say." She elaborated: "I'm always fascinated with what they really mean to say and what comes out of their mouth, and what people say in, in sort of boring, every day life. . . . These characters are people that I grew up with in New Jersey. They're not real people or any particular people, but they're just sort of the kind of people. They're sort of me and my friends."
Hysterical Blindness is a "small-scale, beautifully made character study about two best friends in their twenties," to quote Caryn James in the New York Times. Debby and Beth are working single women who spend their spare time together in bars, looking for men. Beth neglects her ten-year-old daughter, and Debby sometimes quarrels with her mother, with whom she shares a home. The drama follows Debby as she seeks a meaningful relationship with a patently disinterested fellow she has met at the local bar. Her desperation for his approval becomes increasingly pathetic as the story progresses, and ironically, it is her mother who finally achieves a lasting and satisfying romance. Cahill first wrote the work as a play and then adapted it to screen herself at the urging of actress Uma Thurman, who co-produced the feature film and starred in it as Debby.
Cahill said in her HBO interview that she originally intended Hysterical Blindness to be a comedy. As adapted to film, however, the story has a disturbing quality as well as subtle humor. In the Bergen County, New Jersey Record, Bill Ervolino wrote: "Thurman . . . is a captivating Debby. . . . We root for her because we know she's hurting, we know she's trapped, and, we know things could work out for her if she would just take a long, hard look in the mirror. . . . Filmed in and around the Bayonne area, Hysterical Blindness is no one's idea of a feel-good movie, although the ending is vaguely hopeful. It is, however, a wonderfully acted piece that stays with you for days. And it will probably wrench more than a few tears out of you." James likewise felt that Thurman's performance "is deeply felt and eloquent." The critic added: "But while we start off laughing, we come to cringe for Debby and then find her heartbreaking." Hysterical Blindness was the centerpiece feature at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Cahill is also the author of Mercy, a play in which four characters try to get at life's essential meaning while having dinner in a cluttered urban apartment. The central character is Sarah, a documentary filmmaker, who exhorts the others—mostly fruitlessly—to seek contentment, or at least a gelato and a stroll in the park. Variety contributor Matt Wolf faulted the work for its "mannered artificiality of the writing," but nonetheless styled Mercy "an ironic comedy of manners whose characters are ill-equipped to fulfill the lives of which they dream."
In the wake of Hysterical Blindness, Cahill signed a three-picture contract with Miramax Films.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Backstage, January 15, 1999, Cindy Nemser, review of Mercy, p. 35.
Hollywood Reporter, January 18, 2002, Kirk Honeycutt, review of Hysterical Blindness, p. 67.
Newsday (Long Island, NY), August 22, 2002, Noel Holston, "Desperation Isn't Pretty, Even When the Actress Is."
New York Times, August 23, 2002, Caryn James, "Looking for Love, Finding Heartbreak."
Record (Bergen County, NJ), August 25, 2002, Bill Ervolino, "So Wounded She Can't See Straight," p. E1.
Variety, December 21, 1998, Matt Wolf, review of Mercy, p. 86.
HBO Online,http://www.hbo.com/ (May 1, 2003), "Hysterical Blindness."*