Tadeusz von Moltke (“The Blacklist,” DJ Khaled and Jay Z’s “I Got the Keys” music video) presents a poetic novella, a tragic romance. Mr. von Moltke is 5’11”, bald and wears a silk shirt. His set consists of a music stand adorned by a reading light. He introduces us to the hero of his play: Rupert. His whole life, Rupert was a sexual being whose goodness was ripped from him by tragedies, including the murder of his boyhood crush, an altar boy like himself. Mr. von Moltke often interrupts himself. He quotes William Schwenck Gilbert’s “The Duke of Plaza‑Toro.” He quotes Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Socrates and Alcibiades”: “In the end, the wise will often bow to the beautiful.” One of his characters is even named Dante. Rupert, or Mr. von Moltke (it is sometimes unclear where one ends and the other begins) says in the middle of the first act: “The walls that held me here before have no purpose anymore.” I thought this might be a lyric from a Victorian play, but is actually from October Project’s song “Falling Farther In.” From what I gather, the play was initially about the life of Ramón Novarro, a Mexican actor. But due to the fluid nature of Mr. von Moltke’s muse, it became a medley of sonnets, ballads, and stanzas long forgotten from plays little remembered. The burning, the yearning, the full and flowing poetic journey on which he takes you is so surreal, it isn’t fully comprehensible in the moment. It takes time to decide what to make of it. But that’s a good thing. This play leaves you with a question mark you can’t shake. You want to understand where it’s going, but can’t even figure out where it came from. The play is a play, until it isn’t. At the beginning of the third act, Mr. von Moltke actually reads from a script. Although he tells us beforehand what each act will be about, this is one transition that even he admits will be jarring. In the final act, Rupert is viciously killed, in the same way Novarro was. A gay actor at a time when it was common to conceal one’s homosexuality, he died in the company of men who planned to rob him. This play remains under development, and it’s understandable to expect a bumpy ride. But this ride is like driving through Detroit: even the potholes will kill you. “THE HOLLYWOOD ADRIANA: A Cautionary Tale of Damaged Good” Written and Performed by Tadeusz von Moltke Oct. 9 at 9pm Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.