Friday, October 23, 2015

Creatively Channeling the Pain of Divorce

From The North Shore Weekend newspaperContrary to the stereotype of the strong silent type, Evanston resident John Frank has LOTS to say about divorce. His two-act play, which will be staged two weekends in November, is the tip of the iceberg.

“Men don’t talk about how they feel; they just kind of soldier on and people around them think, ‘oh, he’ll be fine.’ But there is, in fact, a lot of pain that men don’t talk about,” said Frank, who divorced after 16 years of marriage to his first wife. “For example, only seeing your kids every other weekend is a terrible way to live. I have no trouble talking about that.”

And so it was that he wrote Boys in the Basement, described as “a unique look at divorce from the perspective of men who have lost their families and everything they once held dear.” It is inspired by the network Frank developed over the years after his divorce.

“In the suburbs, a divorced man is kind of a non-person. I created a network of divorced men friends, as we were all sort of stuck in limbo,” he said.

Frank explained to me that the script tells the story of the tenants in an apartment building – efficiency apartments, that is, located close to several of the tenant’s children and therefore the tenants’ ex-wives – who meet nightly in the basement of their building to share stories over beers.

Among the tenants Frank described there is a player, who is twice divorced; a younger guy who is working up the courage to talk to women; an attorney (played by Frank) who is having an affair with his second ex-wife, though she has gone back to her first husband; a new tenant, who thinks he still has a chance to reconcile with his ex-wife; and the landlord, a still-married guy who flaunts to his tenants that he knows what it takes to be successful in marriage.

(There are a few women in the building, too, who cross paths with the gentlemen throughout the play.)

“It’s about the fine line between love and hate,” Frank said of his play, “how quickly love turns to hate, and how men deal with loss. In many ways divorce is like death, as it changes your dreams and your life so quickly.”

Frank purposefully recruited a female director, Mary Reynard, to counter the male perspective from which he wrote the script. But he is firm: the play will wake audience members up to the man’s mindset during and after a divorce.

“I want people to think about how the other person feels when they’re fighting and finding ways to separate themselves. I want people to think about how traumatic divorce can be and yet how people can go on, and whether there can still be true love.”

Frank believes in it – heck, he remarried in 2007 – but he admits that it’s hard.

“We’re still people and we still have feelings. Some will change and some will never change, but that’s just how life is.”
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