The Wunderkind

Man: “‘In order to do what I wanted to do for the rest of my life I had to learn so much about it that I ruined forever my ability to enjoy it in the way that made me want to do it in the first place.’”

Woman: “That’s it? That’s the worst thing you’ve ever heard in your life?”—A man and a woman, in Authorial Intent, from Love/Stories (or But You Will Get Used to It)

Moses’s routine begins around 9 or 10, when he wakes and departs immediately for a café around the corner, wearing the previous day’s clothes. “It doesn’t allow the option of anything else to intrude in my day,” he says. He writes for two or three hours before returning to the brownstone he shares with artist Nick Frankfurt ’99 and other former Yalies. There he eats his first meal, a bowl of cereal, and digs in for an afternoon of writing in the empty house.

His several works in progress include his first screenplay, a collaboration with two acrobats for the San Francisco Circus Center, and a musical adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel The Fortress of Solitude. With composer Gaby Alter, a childhood friend, he’s also writing another musical, called Reality!—“about reality TV as a bellwether of a generation-wide societal ill, which is the belief that your life has meaning only because people are watching it.” Finally, he is revising a play commissioned by the Manhattan Theatre Club, Completeness, about a romance. One member of the couple is a computer scientist who is trying to solve a famous puzzle known as the Traveling Salesman Problem: how do you find the most efficient route for visiting each of several cities just once? The task is “a good metaphor for dating,” Moses says. “If you wait until you know you’re making the best possible choice, the actual real-world result is you make no choice at all.”

Moses is unmarried but was, at last report, involved in a relationship (about which he will tell a reporter precisely nothing). Interestingly, he describes the central question of Authorial Intent, one of the linked plays in Love/Stories (or But You Will Get Used to It) thus: “How do you maintain something? How do you get to know someone better without destroying the thing that drew you to them in the first place?” It’s a dark view of love. But this is, after all, a playwright who finds drama in “the tiny ways in which we allow ourselves to die every day.”

And because Moses is Moses, he sees in the fading of romantic love and passion an analogy “to your art as an artist: how do you not learn so much about your craft that you ruin your ability to be interested in or excited about the art?”

Is that one of Moses’s concerns—that his formal mastery may ultimately be at odds with inspiration? Has he perhaps peaked too soon?

He shrugs off the question. “In terms of the craft, I’m trying to work harder and dig deeper, so I’m not worried about not producing work that challenges or interests me,” he says. “But in terms of peaking professionally, keep in mind there’s a whole level of stuff that can happen professionally that hasn’t happened to me: I’ve never had a commercial transfer of my work, I’ve never had a show on Broadway, I’ve never won an award for a play in New York, I’ve never even been nominated for any of the Off-Broadway awards.

“Not that I’m in the market for that,” he hastens to add, “or think that’s necessarily meaningful. The Wire, which is transparently the greatest television show in history, never won a single Emmy. Not that awards matter, but you asked me if I’ve peaked. Artistically, definitely not. But professionally—if so, it’s a relatively low peak. Which is not, by the way, something I mind. I enjoy working quietly in a corner.”  

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