Warren Manzi Playwright
Warren Manzi, author of the longest running play in NYC history, Perfect Crime, died on February 11, 2016 in Lawrence Massachusetts after a brief illness. Born in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1955, Manzi was a playwright, actor and director. In 1980, while playing Mozart on Broadway in Amadeus, Warren Manzi wrote his first full-length play, Perfect Crime. The play was optioned for Broadway by Morton Gottlied making Warren - then, age twenty-five - the youngest American ever to have a play optioned for Broadway. Within a year, Mr. Manzi was hired by Universal Studios to write the screenplay for Clue, and was paid what was believed to be then (1981) the largest amount ever paid for a first screenplay.
Perfect Crime has played Off-Broadway since April 18, 1987. In addition, Manzi wrote and directed Cleo Liberman’s All Girl Review, The Award and Other Plays, and Stages, all of which have been produced in New York.
When it first opened in April of 1987, Perfect Crime ran over two and a half hours. Manzi would frequently sit in the theater and listen to audience response and rewrite almost every night for several years, correcting confusing passages, editing unnecessary information and making the show tighter. Actors would get rewrites sometimes daily – even occasionally at intermission. The play now runs one hour and fifty minutes and until the day he died, Manzi checked on the running time of scenes to make sure the actors were keeping up the pace.
The show has a reputation for being confusing but fans often congregate in the lobby exchanging ideas about clues and then checking to see if they are correct with the “Perfect Crime Answer Key” handed out after the show to interested audience members.
In addition, Mr. Manzi directed Matt Cutugno's Incommunicado, Three Sisters, the world premieres of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Between Time and Timbuktu and Samm-Art Williams' Cork, and George Kaiser's From Morning to Midnight, Keith Reddin's Rum & Coke, Heathcote Williams' The Local Stigmatic, and Durrenmatt's The Visit.
Manzi was a 1980 graduate of the Yale School of Drama. He appeared on Broadway in Amadeus and in the films Nuts, The Manhattan Project, and The Defection of Simas Kurdika. He was the Artistic Director of the Actors Collective for many years. When he died he was working on a novel and several short stories.
Below are some kind thoughts from those that knew Warren.
MICHAEL WELLER: True story: we auditioned Manzi to play a lead long ago, and finally offered him the role. He thought it over and finally turned us down because, he explained, "He was almost finished writing a play that will run forever." Chris Cooper finally played the role. And Manzi's play has been running ever since. (My play closed in 2 weeks!)
JIM FARRELL: I auditioned for Warren Manzi in 1988. I had been in NYC for about two years (fresh out of college) and hadn't had much luck yet. I remember seeing an ad in Show Business (remember that paper?) for the Actors Collective production of From Morning to Midnight, and it said they were looking for 10 men. I thought, "Hey, if they're really looking for ten men - maybe I've got a shot." Long story short - Warren cast me and I did many shows with the Actors Collective as a result of that audition including three years as Inspector Ascher in Perfect Crime. I probably wouldn't have much of a NY career if it weren't for Warren and Cathy (and of course Clementine). I am grateful for their faith in me.
But what I remember most about Warren was playing tennis with him on the clay courts in Riverside Park. Warren always wanted to play two or three hours of tennis and then go get chili. Warren was VERY competitive - but so gracious if he lost. I thought it was so funny that he would smoke his Kool's between sets. So, we got to know each other - through Perfect Crime and tennis and chili. Once you were in his circle of friends, you were in for life. We hadn't been in touch for years, but when I heard of his passing I had a unexpected emotional reaction. I thought of those early years in NYC, doing all of those plays, playing tennis for hours and hours and then rushing to do the evening show of Perfect Crime. It was a formative period in my life, and I look forward to the time when we can hit the clay again and play a few sets. He better work on his serve. Thanks, Warren, for everything.
Armand Michael Hyatt Executive Producer
This first-time producer from Massachusetts introduces himself as the oldest of seven children and the father of four. Following his graduation from Boston College (1973) and University of San Diego School of Law (1976), Armand has worked in private law practice in hte immigrant City of Lawrence, where all four of his grandparents had come (two from Italy, two from Syria) to work in the riverfront textile mills around the time of the historic labor strike (dubbed "Bread and Roses"). His work as a lawyer has focused on the struggles o the disenfranchised, particularly in the area of affordable housing.
As a rookie executive producer, Armand has succeeded in producing affordable theatre in Manhattan, with PERFECT CRIME having become the longest-running play in New York theatre history, ever. Armand is the first to admit that his participation in this historic accomplishment may be blessed with some beginner's luck- connecting with teammates like Warren Manzi, Jay Stone, Jeffrey Hyatt and Catherine Russell.
While Armand acknowledges the benefit of his own instincts and judgement in assessing dramatic material, he gives the lion's share o the credit to the adaptability of the artistic team in making the historic run possible. With author Warren Manzi's openness to a collaborative approach with Armand about ongoing creative aspects, Armand has worked with Warren on other projects in the realms of both theatre and film. As Warren's legal counsel, Armand is equipped with various dramatic works authored by Warren to present at the right time for the right deal.
Armand makes it clear to all that he doesn't consider himself an "executive" anything. What matters is the work, and Armand remains diversified in his output of work product. Without offering a professional resume, Armand tells of his enthusiasm for community development issues, beginning with his efforts in 1980 to fight for site-control and build affordable housing in a demolished urban renewal neighbourhood where he grew up, that culminated in his co-founding of the now-thriving Lawrence Community Works C.D.C. That particular fight involved a litigation strategy and Armand admits his attraction to be embroiled in a courtroom trial from time to time, especially when issues of social justice are at stake.
Family life, coaching, teaching religious education (Catholic) and volunteering have been tough for Armand to balance with his long-distance theatre producing and his busy law practice--- but he manages to do so effectively, and finds some time for his favorite forms of relaxation: writing, playing basketball, surfing, sudoku and crosswords.
Jay Cail Stone Technical Director / Graphic Designer
As Technical Director and Graphic Designer of the original PERFECT CRIME production in New York, Jay remains an ongoing participant in the historic project. He has worked with Warren Manzi as an actor, director, and technician for more than twenty years in countless productions. Currently he has been working as a Studio Mechanic on film and television productions in New England and is the President of the New Hampshire Stagehands Local 195. The Most Recent films in Jay's repertoire as a technician were HBO Film Empire Falls and Jay Craven's Disappearances.
Originally from the Boston area, Jay is now living in New Hampshire where he taught Television Production at Salem High School. In New England Jay has directed Vanities, Deathtrap, and The Skin of our Teeth. Amidst his other responsibilities, Jay also works with Risk International, performing risk analysis and assessment of public assembly facilities.
Jay was pleased to bring a production of Perfect Crime back to the home state of the core individuals who launched the original New York production; the author, the director, the executive producer and himself. Jay Directed Perfect Crime at The Foothills Theater in Worcester MA in 2004.