The Psycho-Thriller


by Douglas Post
27 Jan - 15 March 2003
Several years ago I witnessed two couples in their late 20s sitting together at a cafe along the shores of Lake Michigan. The men were handsome, the women, gorgeous, and they all four seemed to be experiencing what I can only describe as a radiant moment. I surmised that they had arrived at a certain level of success in their respective careers and were now looking forward to the good life. But I also couldn’t help feeling that they had bought into something – something not of their own making and borrowed from an American ideal of how we should be. I began to imagine a play about these beautiful people which would document their gradual descent into the realities of our time.

Simultaneously, I had been thinking about a thriller set in an American suburb that strange territory which is neither city nor country, but a somewhat artificial community made up of winding malls, well-manicured lawns and moneyed white people. The story would involve two neighboring families and a murder. When I was asked to write a teleplay for the NBC Chicago Playwrights Festival, I began to see a way of combining this story with my foursome in the park. The result was a one-act version of Murder in Green Meadows which was produced with members of the Steppenwolf Theater Company and received six Emmy Award nominations including one for Individual Achievement in Writing.

Shortly after the airing of the TV play, I began writing a full-length version of this story which I now began to see as both a thriller and a black comedy about the downside of the American Dream. One day I came across an article in The Chicago Reader about the real estate scene which contained the following sentiment: “Sadly, people have been moving to the Chicago suburbs to ‘get away from it all’ for more than a century and still haven’t realized that they are ‘it’”.

This sentence struck home with me and I knew that somebody out there was writing about the realm of my play.

Interestingly enough, the world premiere of what I consider to be an indigenously American piece took place at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, England. After the first read-through one of the actresses approached me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but I find this play to be terribly funny”.

“That’s okay”, I responded, “So do I”. I was happy to hear that she thought that the script was humorous because I was concerned that the comic aspects wouldn’t translate overseas. I was wrong. Our audiences laughed, and occasionally screamed, in all the right places, and the show was a success. It has now gone on to be produced at some forty theaters across the States and a few more in Europe.

I am delighted that it has found its way to Vienna and hope that you will find yourself fully engaged in the intersecting lives of the Symons and the Devereauxs.

Douglas Post
Chicago, Illinois
January 2003