Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lynda Cohen Loigman's "The Two-Family House"

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, The Two-Family House:
I’m pretty sure this is every author’s favorite way to procrastinate. After all, what could be more fun than dream-casting actors to play your characters on screen? Just the thought of it makes me giddy.

The Two-Family House is a character-driven story, written from the alternating viewpoints of four adults. Later on, the voices of two children are added as well. Writing this way allowed me to fully inhabit each character, and to dig deeply with respect to their motivations and thoughts. You might say I’m a little overly attached to my characters at this point – which only makes imagining real people to play them more exciting!

When I was halfway done writing The Two-Family House, I began to imagine Natalie Portman as Rose. Rose changes so much throughout the book – she goes from desperate and timid to assertive and bitter. If you’ve ever seen the movie The Black Swan, you’ll know why I have such an appreciation for Natalie Portman’s talent to transform herself. Natalie is the perfect age to play Rose, and since she’s also a young mother, I feel like she would be able to bring that maternal experience to the role.

Helen is the tougher female character for me to cast. She is what my grandmother would have called a baleboste – the Yiddish word for a traditional wife, mother, homemaker type. The actor who plays Helen must be oozing warmth and love, but still be tough as nails. She has to be a likable person who does something many might find unforgivable. The setting for the story is 1940’s and 1950’s Brooklyn, so the actor must be able to play that period convincingly. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal? Kelly Macdonald (without the Irish accent) would be great too. I’m fairly sure that both Maggie and Kelly would have to gain weight to play Helen. Don’t worry ladies – I am more than willing to meet for donuts.

On to the men. For a long time, I pictured Mort as Steve Buscemi. But since I’m committed to Natalie as Rose, he may be a tad too old (Sorry Steve!). Just the other day, a vision of Jesse Eisenberg popped into my head. I was thinking about his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, where he was so terrific playing an awkward genius – someone who is distant and emotionally disengaged from the people around him. Sounds to me an awful lot like my character, Mort, at the beginning of the book. By the end of The Two-Family House, Mort truly redeems himself, and I think Jesse could nail that part as well.

Last comes Abe. He is a teddy bear – full of kind intentions and unable to hold a grudge. He is someone who enjoys good company and lots of good food. If Josh Gad is up for taking on a meaty, dramatic role, I could see him doing it. If not Josh, maybe Chris O’Dowd (but again, we’d have to work on replacing the Irish accent.). Mort and Abe are brothers, after all, so it would be a bonus if the actors playing them looked a little bit alike.

I think I’d better stop there. This has been so much fun – thanks for indulging me!
Visit Lynda Cohen Loigman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Two-Family House.

--Marshal Zeringue