THE STORY: A brilliant and bizarre black comedy about a pair of elderly Holocaust survivors and their outlandish, deranged daughter, which, in a series of sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving scenes, traces the pervasive, baleful effect of their earlier trauma on the “better life” they have tried to build. Having retired to Florida, Max and Lola are dismayed to find that their new condo is not yet ready for occupancy and that they are obliged to stay temporarily in a “model apartment” —a tacky, gaudily decorated horror with a fake television set and refrigerator where even the ashtrays are cemented in place. Max and Lola had hoped to escape not only the nagging memories of their earlier lives, and the terrors of present-day Brooklyn, but also their fat, schizophrenic daughter, Debby, whom they had tried to “pay off” with generous amounts of cash before their hasty departure. But Debby, who seems to symbolize for them the awfulness of their past and their failures in the present, soon appears, followed in short order by her boyfriend, Neil, a slightly retarded black teenager whose limited sensibilities have been further numbed by the grinding horrors of the urban ghetto. Sometimes moving (as when Max, dreaming, imagines Debby as the lovely, innocent daughter he lost to the Nazis) or darkly comic (as when Max and Lola gingerly query Neil about how he and their daughter first met), the many short scenes coalesce into an affecting, ultimately disquieting whole, which makes it chillingly evident that those who are unable to confront and overcome the demons of their past are doomed to be forever haunted by them.
Winner of the Obie Award. First presented by the famed Los Angeles Theatre Center. “Playwright Donald Margulies presents a modern family drama with an unusual, but fitting combination of themes: schizophrenia, parent-child separation, and the transmittal of Holocaust trauma across generations.” —Los Angeles Reader. “…a profoundly important new work…Margulies has written a virtually flawless play, one that could well prove to be an enduring masterpiece.” —Drama-Logue. “…diabolical ingenuity and rueful tenderness…lovely and devastating…a glowing reminder of the particular pungency and intelligence of this playwright’s vision.” —NY Times. “…among the most complex and daring Holocaust plays I’ve seen…Margulies has taken the naturalistic approach—and pipe-bombed it…Much as [he] parodied Neil Simon-esque writing in What’s Wrong with This Picture? To find emotional truths in the Brooklyn-apartment Jewish comedy, and much as he turned Arthur Miller inside out in the mordantly hilarious Loman Family Picnic, in THE MODEL APARTMENT he skews the angle on Holocaust plays. Shaking pieties with compassion…he shifts sentimentality into a dark and honest pain.” —Village Voice.