In the #metoo era, Maddie Corman’s emotional story is sure to resonate with people who are forced to pick up the pieces of their lives when a loved one is accused of a horrible crime. In Maddie’s case, the accused is her husband of 20 years, Jace Alexander, known for directing episodes of Law & Order, Rescue Me, and Ally McBeal, as well as pilots for shows such as Burn Notice and Royal Pains. Corman never mentions her husband’s name, saying she’s telling her story, not his, but his mug shot is flashed on the screen behind her.
Maddie, who has an impressive film and television resume, is on her way to an acting job in Brooklyn when she receives a call from her teenage daughter. With her twin 11 year-old sons sobbing in the background, Maddie learns that the police are in her Dobbs Ferry home removing her husband’s computer. She calls her brother and asks him to get over to her house to pick up her children. When she finally speaks to her husband, she learns that he’s being arrested and charged with downloading and watching child pornography. She calls her father and asks him to get her husband a lawyer.
With the implosion of her storybook marriage – they were once featured in the New York Times’ “Vows” column – Maddie must deal with the fallout. There’s no hiding, the headlines, blasted onto the screen, are everywhere. While her husband focuses on his case and then enters a fancy rehab facility in Arizona, Maddie is left to manage day to day. With neither of them able to work, finances become strained. Her two sons are about to enter middle school. Will they be bullied? Should she find them another school? The phone calls range from sympathetic to intrusive to downright mean.
One call is literally a gift from heaven. Someone who has gone through a similar situation wants to help. Maddie calls the woman her angel, and no, she admonishes the audience, she won’t reveal the person’s name. Donning large glasses with black frames, Maddie delivers the angel’s advice in a calm, deep voice. You’ll get through this, she’s told. Not only that, but your life on the other side of this event may be better and richer than before. Maddie can be forgiven for not embracing this prediction. Each day brings another reminder that her husband and, by inference, Maddie herself is a pariah. “Did you know?” “Are you getting divorced?” “We have to take your name off the list of benefit sponsors.” “Your husband can no longer coach soccer.” And on and on.
For the record, Maddie says she didn’t know, but during one of the most heart rending parts of the play, she confesses that she knew there were problems in the marriage. Sex was less frequent and when it happened, she felt her husband was disconnected, not really focusing on her. While her children experience their own traumas, one asks: doesn’t “In sickness and in health” mean that Maddie needs to stay and help because her husband, their father, must be sick to have done what he did.
Maddie grudgingly attends family week at her husband’s rehab facility. Several things happen. She makes friends, women whose lives bear little resemblance to Maddie’s except that they are all dealing with the same crisis. She meets their husbands, accomplished men who have also done bad things. And she learns that her husband had other secrets, possible abuse that happened in his childhood that may shed light on his behavior. It’s all a lot to digest.
Corman is constantly in motion. To think that she performs this show eight times a week is astonishing. Her emotions at times are raw and one wonders whether she’s acting or actually reliving those painful moments from the past. This is a brave performance that is intentional, not accidental.
It’s been four years since the event and she and her husband are still together. While her husband didn’t get prison time, he is on probation and had to register as a sex offender. His computer use is restricted. They had to sell their Westchester home to pay for her husband’s lawyer and rehab. They moved to Harlem, a location her children sometimes love and sometimes hate.
As her angel once remarked, Maddie did survive, at least for now. But her healing continues. “Grief,” she says, “is not finite.”
Photos: Jeremy Daniel