NY Theater Review By Elizabeth Ahlfors



  • “I can’t live – I can only imagine,” said Alfred Hitchcock, creator of film masterpieces like Psycho, Foreign Correspondent and Rear Window. His films are entrées to Hitchcock’s life. In David Rudkin’s moody interpretation, The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock, the prolific director, mines his personal apprehensions and frustrated passions and, in the process, plays on the viewer’s fears.


The annual Brits Off-Broadway series at 59e59 Theaters presents an expressionistic look at the famed filmmaker at work, but this play won’t shoot shivers up your spine or jolt you out of your seat. Originally conceived as a radio play in 1993, Hitchcock is played by Martin Miller who conveys the director’s haughty droll essence. While he is occasionally wrapped up in memories of a Jesuit priest (Anthony Wise), or his mother (Roberta Kerr), or exchanging ideas with a screenwriter (Tom McHugh), Hitchcock is verbalizing thoughts in a staccato stream-of-consciousness as he visualizes the film, Vertigo. On a minimalist set by Juliet Shillingford, he sits in a director’s chair before a pale screen with Azusa Ono’s atmospheric light shadings and the occasional sound of birds in the distance provided by Tom Lishman.

Directed by Jack McNamara, memories insert themselves, leaving themes later used in his films. Most influential are the two women who played the greatest part in his life and work, both portrayed by the gifted Roberta Kerr. One is his mother, Emma, a nagging, temperamental and possessive woman who sent her pudgy son on the path to fear with her shouts of, “Boo!” Like the priest at school, she instills in him the evils of women and sex. In his films, Hitchcock equated sex with death, usually murder. The “little boy’s best friend,” as she called herself, later morphed into screwballs like the artist mother in Strangers On A Train and Norman Bates’ mother. One memory with his mother inspired the shower scene in Psycho.

He always hated his heavy body. “I can’t be. I can only create images,” he says. “I just direct. I don’t touch anybody.” He was fascinated with the women he cast in his films, however, threatening blondes whom he could never possess. Many had names beginning with the letter, “M” (Marnie, Melanie, Marion, Miriam, Madeleine) and they all came to a bad end. (His mother was named Emma. Hmm.)

A breath of life in this thoughtful but slow-moving play is Kerr’s portrayal of his wife, Alma, now a widow working on her memoirs. She was a close helpmate in Hitchcock’s films, commenting how she would be “grooming his victims.” With Alma, he lived a quiet family life. “A Jimmy Stewart sort of character,” he says, “Except for my figure of course. . .And I make my pictures for decent people. For law-abiding Jimmy Stewart sort of people.” He mentions Stewart several times in the context of films, The Man Who Knew Too Much and the voyeuristic Rear Window, decent people about to be caught up in suspense and fear.

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock delivers a hint at this complex master of suspense with a “crazy inner life”but you will probably learn more about Alfred J Hitchcock, and have more fun, watching his films.

New Perspectives Theatre Company presents The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock, which opened on May 1, 2014 and runs through May 25. At 59e59 Theaters. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with one 10 minute intermission.

*Photo: Carol Rosegg