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"We All Work for the Man."

Vivia Chen

February 26, 2017

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Remember Alan Hruska, the former Cravath, Swaine & Moore partner turned playwright, novelist and filmmaker? Recently, the 83-year old former litigator opened his play "Ring Twice for Miranda" at City Center in New York, a highly prestigious off-Broadway venue.

Let me give you three quick reasons why you should see it. First, it's pretty good theater (the writing is witty, and the actors are terrific, particularly Katie Kleiger who plays the title role); second, the play feels extremely timely (a self-absorbed leader rules over his anxious subjects—need I say more?); and third, it's by one of us.

I know that third reason might seem the least convincing. But speaking as someone who felt miscast as a lawyer, I think we should all support lawyers pursuing second acts. It's the least we can do for those creative souls trapped in an soulless profession. (I'm projecting here, because Hruska tells me he was actually quite happy at Cravath.)

So let's get back to the play. It's fundamentally about power: how it's used to terrorize, manipulate and seduce. The plot revolves around the curious relationship between an aloof, capricious ruler (Sir) and a spirited young woman who works for him as a maid (Miranda). Set in desperate times (“People are hungry out there, cold at night. Many are leaving.”), the play is darkly amusing, in the tradition of Samuel Beckett, of whom Hruska is an aficionado. (His direction of an off-Broadway production of Waiting for Godot in 2005 got critical attention and put him on the map.)

Of course, you can't watch five minutes of it without thinking that the dystopia Hruska portrays is about our current era. Except that the play was written before anyone thought Trump was a viable political figure. (Hruska finished it over six years ago—in three weeks!) "I did think of the political implications," says Hruska about the Sir character, "but not this one"—meaning Trump.

Indeed, Hruska says the Sir character describes many in power. And, yes, he's drawing from his 44 years in law. "My lengthy practice brought me in touch with people who are pathologically narcissistic. They're usually associated with heads of state or captains of industry, but I find them with any group. These are people who need power; they go out and get it, then impose it in awful ways."

And might lawyers fall into that category—possibly some of his Cravath partners? He doesn't deny it, though he says Sir is "a composite of individuals." Everyone has encountered a Sir character in their lives, he says: "someone who's funny, charming and charismatic, but then there's the darker side."

Like the two hapless protagonists Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, the characters in his play have little control over their lives. "Instead of waiting for Godot, they're working for him," says Hruska. "In a sense, we all work for the man."

And what lawyer can't relate to that message?

vchen@alm.com

 

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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