Jenny Hecht was the daughter of prolific screenwriter Ben Hecht and their tumultuous relationship is the subject of Larry Mollin’s play The Screenwriter’s Daughter, now showing at the Leicester Square Theatre, writes Fiona Leckerman.
Screenwriter, producer, director, journalist and novelist, Ben Hecht wrote some of Hollywood’s most famous films, writing lines for John Wayne in Stagecoach and Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind. Hecht filled the screen with stories that would become classics forever.
He was also an active Zionist and captured the plight of European Jews in his play We Will Never Die.
The play however, starring a strong cast, sees Paul Easom’s Ben, struggle in his relationships with daughter jenny, played with a rebellious but fragile edge by Samantha Dakin.
Set in New York, the daughter of one of Hollywood’s greats wants to forgo a career in the movies and her gilded lifestyle gifted to her by her famous father and instead has joined Julian Beck and The Living Theatre, to spread the message of love, peace and sexual equality. A sparring of sorts between the old and new ideologies ensues.
The one-act play is well-acted and quite aptly the script beautifully written with the dialogue fast-paced and witty, but, in the small space of the Leicester Square Theatre the production lacks direction. It half wants to follow the Julian Beck idea of dissolving the fourth wall, but still stays within a naturalist structure, which doesn’t pack the punch the story deserves.
The play explores the connection and love between father and daughter despite differing life choices, but what remains is an inevitable sadness. Jenny’s untimely death and the implication that things were never resolved with her father changes the play to a more biographical piece, when it has the potential to be so much more.
The Screenwriter’s Daughter runs until 29 November at The Leicester Square Theatre.