It’s a time-honored truism that great artists often lead unhappy lives. But how often does digging into a visionary’s twisted psyche produce great art?
That’s the question David Rudkin raises in The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock, now running at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway series. Adapted by Rudkin from his radio play of the same title, the piece is a heavily Freudian tour through the master filmmaker’s youth, suggesting connections between Hitchcock’s most famous films and his anxieties about weight, sexuality, and family.
Hitch (Martin Miller) perches in a director’s chair before a stark white screen, conjuring shots and dictating camera angles to an obedient studio crew. Between brainstorms, figures from his early life — including his oppressive mother (Roberta Kerr) and a Catholic school priest — appear in shadows or as silhouettes behind the screen. We’re also treated to the long-suffering musings of his ever-faithful wife, also played, with psychological heavy-handedness, by Kerr.
Hitchcock led an interesting life, but this treatment of his psychology feels overly fixated on his many possible pathologies. Were the artist’s best ideas motivated by sexual impotence and anger at his mum? Does it really matter? I’d rather watch Psycho than learn how Hitchcock was one.