(Margaret Tracy, A Joint Pseudonym)
CAREER: Writer, novelist, librettist, and playwright.
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original, Mystery Writers of America, 1984, for Mrs. White; National Endowment for the Arts grant; Drama Desk nominations for book and lyrics of Bed and Sofa.
I Watch Lois (mystery novel), Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1981.
(With brother; under joint pseudonym Margaret Tracy) Mrs. White (mystery novel), Dell (New York, NY), 1983.
The Shooting Script (mystery novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Cutting Room (mystery novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Author of teleplays, including Me and Jezebel, American Movie Classics; Corduroy, USA network; and episodes of Adventures of Superboy. Author of screenplays, including One Bedroom, The Un-usual Suspects, and Disobedience. Contributor to periodicals, including Playgirl, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, New Theater Review, and KillingtheBuddha.com.
Sleeping Beauty; and, Smoke: Two Short Plays (Sleeping Beauty first produced at Manhattan Punch Line Theater, New York, NY), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1985.
Uncle Lumpy Comes to Visit; and, No Time: Two Short Plays (No Time first produced at Festival Theater for New Plays, Philadelphia, PA), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1986.
The Magic Act (first produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York, NY), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1989.
The Show Must Go On; Seeing Someone; If Walls Could Talk (The Show Must Go On first produced at Manhattan Punch Line Theater, New York, NY; If Walls Could Talk first produced at Manhattan Punch Line Theater, New York, NY), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1990.
Gorgo's Mother (first produced at Manhattan Punch Line Theater, New York, NY), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1991.
Freud's House, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1997.
(Author of libretto) Bed and Sofa: A Silent Movie Opera (based on the 1926 screenplay by Victor Shklovsky; first produced at Vineyard Theater, New York, NY), music by Polly Pen, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Polly Pen) Embarrassments (musical), produced at the Wilma Theater, 2003.
ADAPTATIONS: Mrs. White was adapted for film as White of the Eye.
SIDELIGHTS: Playwright, novelist, and librettist Laurence Klavan is the author of a number of plays, as well as of mystery novels centering around Hollywood. His earlier novel, Mrs. White, written with his brother under the joint pseudonym of Margaret Tracy, earned the pair an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best paperback original. Klavan, furthermore, is the author of the libretto for Bed and Sofa: A Silent Movie Opera, which earned him a Drama Desk nomination. His plays have been produced in a variety of venues, including Ensemble Studio Theater, Manhattan Punch Line, Working Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, People's Light & Theater Co., and the Philadelphia Festival Theater for New Plays. Part of the HBO New Writers Project, he was also a key author featured in American Jewish Theater's production of Miami Stories: Bellow, Malamud, and Klavan.
Embarrassments, a musical written with composer Polly Pen, centers on the renowned nineteenth-century literary figure Henry James. Ironically, James's attempts at drama were a failure, and his efforts resulted in public ridicule. At the opening of Embarrassments, James's ill-fated play Guy Domville unsuccessfully runs in London's West End, overwhelmed by competition from the fêted and admired Oscar Wilde. "This is one of the most famous terrible stories in the arts," Klavan remarked to Lewis Whittington in American Theater. "We try to make him human and use this disaster to explore what led him to create his masterpieces" of literature.
Bed and Sofa is a "wholly unique musical, inspired by a 1926 Russian silent film directed by Abram Room and written by Victor Shklovsky" that "depicts a comic love triangle set amid the housing shortage in 1926 Moscow," noted a PR Newswire contributor. The reviewer remarked favorably on Klavan's "captivating libretto" for the piece. In the musical, Ludmilla, a dreamy and romantic homemaker, and her affable husband, Nikolai, agree to let Nikolai's war buddy Volodya stay with them when he lands a job in Moscow but is unable to find a place to live. A love triangle ensues while the three confront issues of loyalty and freedom in Stalinist Russia. Pen and Klavan "each contribute a handful of nice moments" to the whole of the play, noted Eric Grode in Back Stage.
As a novelist, Klavan published two mystery novels in 2004. The first, The Cutting Room, is a "wry, whimsically romantic crime novel," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Brimming with engaging tidbits of movie trivia, it is narrated in the self-effacing voice of its bumbling, endearing hero, Roy Milano," a thoroughly obsessed movie trivia aficionado and publisher of Trivial Man, a film trivia newsletter. When Alan Gilbert, the host of a cable TV trivia show, contacts Milano and tells him he has a print of the uncut, unreleased version of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, he is astonished. Long thought lost, the full-length movie is a kind of holy grail for film buffs, the apotheosis of Welles's directorial talents. Milano rushes across New York to see this treasure, but arrives only to find Gilbert dead and the film missing. Thus begins Milano's fevered quest to find the missing motion picture, a chase that takes him to Los Angeles and Barcelona, involves him with an actor about to remake Citizen Kane and a suspected thief once intimately connected with Wells, and puts him in danger as he zeroes in on the precious celluloid. The novel contains "enough movie trivia and snappy dialog to capture the attention of movie buffs and leave them eager for a sequel," observed Library Journal reviewer Susan Clifford Braun. Booklist reviewer Keir Graff called it a "great bit of escapism for film and mystery buffs alike." "Klavan has a winner with The Cutting Room and with Milano," remarked Joe Hartlaub on the BookReporter.com. "Klavan's background in film and theater runs deep, which gives this fine novel and its characters that ring of authenticity that cannot be artificially manufactured."
Milano returns in Klavan's second mystery novel, The Shooting Script. With his mother ailing and in need of medical care, Milano faces the possibility of giving up his movie-trivia newsletter to get a real job. Meanwhile, another source has allegedly located a never-released Jerry Lewis film about the Holocaust, The Day the Clown Died. Once again, the source dies and the video is stolen by unknown parties, and Milano has to set off on a frenzied chase to recover the missing goods. Booklist contributor David Wright observed that, even though the plot sometimes gets out of hand, "there is enough delightful insanity along the way to please fans of silly suspense." "Klavan, while not a deep literary writer, is an extremely entertaining one, and his plot holds together, hilariously, as a vehicle for the presentation of arcane film facts," observed Hartlaub in another BookReporter.com review.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Theatre, December, 2003, Lewis Whittington, "Saint James," review of Embarrassments, p. 6.
Back Stage, February 9, 1996, Eric Grode, review of Bed and Sofa: A Silent Movie Opera, p. 44.
Booklist, January 1, 2004, Keir Graff, review of The Cutting Room, p. 833; December 1, 2004, David Wright, review of The Shooting Script, p. 639.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2003, review of The Cutting Room, p. 1428; December 15, 2004, review of The Shooting Script, p. 1168.
Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Susan Clifford Braun, review of The Cutting Room, p. 124; December 1, 2004, Ann Kim, review of The Shooting Script, p. 182.
MBR Bookwatch, March, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of The Shooting Script.
PR Newswire, November 5, 1998, "Opera Takes the Stage of the Wilma Theater with the Philadelphia Premiere of Bed and Sofa, an Innovative Musical by Polly Pen and Laurence Klavan," p. 7065.
Publishers Weekly, December 22, 2003, review of The Cutting Room, p. 35.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (August 22, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of The Shooting Script.
BookReporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 22, 2005), Joe Hartlaub, reviews of The Cutting Room and The Shooting Script.
Culture Vulture, http://www.culturevulture.net/ (December 7, 2003), Lewis Whittington, review of Embarrassments.
Laurence Klavan Home Page, http://www.laurenceklavan.com (August 22, 2005).
Playdatabase.com, http://www.playdatabase.com/ (August 22, 2005).