Jules At 90: ‘A Bad Friend’

On Sunday, September 1, at 7 PM, Guild Hall will celebrate local legend Jules Feiffer’s 90th birthday with a reading of Feiffer’s “A Bad Friend,” featuring F. Murray Abraham, Tedra Millan, Mercedes Ruehl, and Harris Yulin. Yulin also will don the director’s cap, bringing the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and cartoonist’s work to life on stage.

F. Murray Abraham. Courtesy Guild Hall

Abraham’s first job in New York was as a Macy’s Santa, but he is probably best known for his role as Salieri in “Amadeus,” which garnered him an Oscar. According to his tongue-in-cheek bio: “He’s done a lot of movies and plays and has been given some awards: an Oscar, a Golden Globe, the LA Film Critics Award, The John Gielgud Award for Excellence in Shakespeare, The Moscow Art Stanislavski Award, two Emmy nominations, two OBIEs, and is in the NY Theater Hall of Fame.”

“About 50 years ago, in Jules’s play ‘Little Murders,’ I took over as Rev Dupas for the last two weeks of the run, and the monologue still holds up,” Abraham told The Independent. “But the one that speaks so brilliantly to the art scene today is the photographer’s monologue. He describes his huge success at taking pictures of s–t. Pretty incisive characterization of our culture today,” he said.

The master himself, Feiffer, said this: “After crushing reviews of the brilliant Mike Nichols’s production of my off-Broadway play, ‘Elliot Loves,’ I decided that, as a husband and parent, I could no longer afford a career as a pro-bono playwright. I announced my retirement from the theater. A few years later, Andre Bishop, the artistic director of the Lincoln Center theater company, asked if a commission from Lincoln Center would lure me back in. I said ‘yes,’ because I already had the idea for the play that I wanted to write,” he said.

“A play about a family of Jewish communists living in Brooklyn Heights at the height of the Cold War, and the avuncular outsider who forever alters their lives. The play, fictional though it was, derived its characters from real people in my life, in particular, my older sister, a doctrinaire-Stalinist, and the gentle outsider, who, for a time, made headlines everywhere in the Western world,” the playwright added.

Feiffer said he is “thrilled that Guild Hall and my old friend, actor and director Harris Yulin, are honoring me with this reading of ‘A Bad Friend,’ a play still timely and still close to my heart.”

Attendees on Sunday are invited to stick around for a slice of birthday cake with the legendary cartoonist and playwright after the performance.

For more information, visit www.guildhall.org.

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