“You’ve Got Hate Mail”

In the 1970s, when “The Stepford Wives” skewered banal suburban life, many people realized that “Stepford” was a not-so-subtle stand-in for Westport.

Heck, much of the movie was filmed here.

Westport life is now the subject of an Off-Broadway play — and there’s no alias.  “You’ve Got Hate Mail” is running on Fridays at the Triad on the Upper West Side.

And we’re a hit.  The comedy — about a Westport couple whose marriage unravels, thanks to the Internet and cell phones — has been extended through the summer.

The show is an updated version of “Love Letters,” A.R. Gurney’s evocative look — through thoughtful, lovely writing — of a 50-year love affair.

The modern world movesmuchmorequickly.  We dash off emails without thinking (or punctuating).  We hit “send” without double-checking the “to” line.

And we read them just as distractedly.

Though co-writer Jane Milmore — who also plays the lead role of “hapless Westport wife Stephanie” — lives in New Jersey, she told the Connecticut Post that she “knows Fairfield County women with husbands who spend the day working in Manhattan.”

Milmore said that many of the characters — and emails — in the play are drawn from real life.

Uh oh.

The Postadds:

Milmore is fascinated by the way many users of the Internet drift into relationships they wouldn’t start up in the “real world” and how they never seem to pause to think through what they are doing online.

Hook-ups can happen in the city faster than ever on office computers or PDAs and yet a tech-savvy wife can investigate what hubby is up to in ways that were denied to commuter wives 20 or 30 years ago.

Twenty or 30 years ago, Westport was defined by “Stepford Wives.”  Before that, it was “The Swimmer”; earlier still, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.”

I would say something clever in response, but I’m late for a key party.

11 responses to ““You’ve Got Hate Mail”

  1. Billy Van Zandt is the brother of Little Steven, of the Underground Garage and E Street Band fame. I’m surprised they didn’t set it in a Jersey ‘burb.

  2. The Dude Abides

    Certainly an interesting concept. I do believe our techlogical advances in the form of social interaction may be our own demise. I was under the impression that “Stepford” was about New Canaan and I know “Swimmer” was filmed primarily in Weston, ’67. I never really equated either with life here in Westport. “Gray Flannel” is pure Westport and the book more so. I would like to see a script of “Hate Mail.” I continue to follow the belief of my mentor Larry McMurtry: If I wanted to see a play, I would take a nap.

  3. The first “Stepford Wives” film certainly had scenes in Westport…when Katherine Ross decides near the end to go to the men’s club, you can see her walking through the brick entrance to Stony Point.

  4. The Dude Abides

    Thanks, Jake. The reference to “key party” derives from the movie “Ice Storm” which was filmed in New Canaan regarding the frigid storm on January 19th, 1974. I am told it was the only day mail was not delivered in the history of Connecticut. I was married on that day in New Canaan and the frigidity continued for 36 more years.

  5. if you could choose you would think you wouldn’t want this play or the Stepford Movie to be placed in Westport; subordinating ones personal preferences in order to maintain material stability is not attractive.

    • Princeton '82

      I would tend to agree with you Anonymous. Being of feminist decree, by womb and marriage, I tend to frown on the platitudes promulgated by Stepford and even Swimmer. As for Bad Mail, it would seem that it is hardly unique to this area and thus, not a condemnation of the lifestyle hereto.

  6. Oh, I’ve missed you guys! I am still laughing at the Dude’s “36 yr. freeze”, not that it is funny to live it. Since last posting here I have, sadly, moved away from Westport and out of the life of my Manhattan-by-day husband.

    I met my husband online, almost broke up with him over his lies about facebook, married him and moved to Westport, lived a nightmare, (his ex and her nonstop tech contact being one of the many problems) spewed to everyone online when he and his evil mother attacked me in Chicago, tried to make sense of the world as he made love to his iphone and laptop, and finally left when there was a devastating “last straw”; announcing via facebook that I had moved, right before he blocked me.

    Now he blogs lies about me just like he did his first wife. I have since learned I have been dealing with an extremely disturbed individual with no less than three complicated mental disorders and many alternate personalities.

    Nothing can make me feel better about this divorce in two months, though, or the fact that I just completed bankruptcy, or the constant struggle of still loving someone who went from soulmate to cruel stranger in two years.

    And believe it or not, I still blame technology for my heartbreak and tenous position of beginning from scratch at age 49, when it was really my failure to set limits and say, “Hey, real life from now on, Babe, or goodbye.”

    I am determined to return to Westport someday, to undo this knot of fear/anxiety/deep sadness that remains in me when I think of it. I will come back with someone I love and trust, go to the beach, enjoy a fine meal, and take Metro-North into Manhattan.

    And we will have fun there; I won’t be going to the expensive psychiatrist to whom my husband sent me, to solidify my role as “second crazy wife”. Everything will be new and I’ll be alive again, and I will turn to my real soulmate and give him a big, mushy kiss of joy.

    And I will know, as pointed out so eloquently in posts above, that what happened to me could have happened anywhere in this brand new e-world.

    Thank you for reading and please comment so I can continue to heal and get over my feelings of devastation and alienation from Westport ~ a place I’d been destined to inhabit but still do not understand WHY and how it could end like this.

    • The Dude Abides

      Heartfelt. Someone once told me that the only thing worse than marriage is divorce. Not sure about that but I do know that life goes on. Keep the faith. I can tell you that running five miles a day helps! The 114 year old man who just died attributed his longevity to an ability to accept change (and only two meals a day!). You must keep that in mind. And Westport is not a symbol or an image but a steady evolving collection of people, constantly changing.

  7. Not a Stepford

    Did it strike anyone else as odd that it seems the assumption in this post is that husbands go to the city and work and wives stay home and volunteer? That seems like such an outdated notion, but maybe I have been in the working world too long.

  8. You are definitely correct. But it is still a good ole boys club, especially in Hollywood. If you will note that the number of female Congressional representatives is dwindling. The White fat men are getting nervous though. Should have been Hillary.

  9. I appreciate your sentiments and advice, Dude. I knew I could count on you for comfort and inspiration. Thanks again.

    And to JAM: Had to chuckle as I’ve often referred to our government as the fat white men with red meat faces. Hope they’ll go the way of the dinosaurs, turquoise formica, and …