Playwright mum about ‘Mandate Memories’ plot

By Eva Trieger

Eva Trieger

Eva Trieger

SOLANA BEACH, California — Humble, open and with an air of mischief, Lionel Goldstein sits outside the North Coast Rep Theater allowing me to interview him about the upcoming show.  Mandate Memories will preview on April 9th and 10th and run through May 4th.  A few seasons back, North Coast Rep was treated to Halpern and Johnson also penned by Goldstein.   The playwright seems surprised at the booming success of his 1983 play, which today, plays all over the world, all the time!

Born in London in 1935, Goldstein experienced little in the way of formal education because he and his sister were frequently evacuated to get them out of harm’s way.  His grandparents refused to leave London, and so his parents did their best to shelter the children from air raids and bombings.

Goldstein did not indulge a childhood dream of being a playwright.  He did not fantasize about writing for the silver screen or the stage.  He told me he had “no interest or feel” for writing.  He fell into playwriting quite by accident. In the early 1970s, Goldstein teamed up with a young teacher to write a book about the weather.  He anthropomorphized various weather events, Harry Hurricane, Tina Tsunami etc.  He had an unpublished book when he was asked to come for an interview with the BBC. Eagerly, he accepted the invitation from this top BBC producer.

After the interview, he was asked to send the BBC his play.  There was no play!  Goldstein called up a friend and asked, “How do you write a play?”  His friend began with the obvious:  First you type the character’s name.  Then put a colon.  Then write dialogue. If you have stage directions, put those in parenthesis.  He sent in the first ten pages.  And that was the start of Goldstein’s career as a playwright.

“Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson” became a widely known and well loved play and the title was abbreviated to Halpern and Johnson.  On NCRT’s stage the poignant, tender and sincere play was enacted by Robert Grossman and Jonathan McMurtry, both excellent actors with amazing chemistry. The play begins with a funeral where the two men who’ve loved this woman exchange their memories of their respective relationships to Florence.

When I asked Goldstein how he feels about the actors selected for Mandate Memories he told me, “It’s none of my business.”  I was amazed at this reply.  It’s incredible to me, that one can write a piece and then remove his ego from the equation. It also helps that Goldstein thinks the world of David Ellenstein.

“David is a great bloke,” Goldstein said of NCRT’s Artistic Director.  Mandate Memories will host some incredible talent in the form of Rosina Reynolds, a director and actress often seen at NCRT, as well as Apollo Dukakis, a relative newcomer to our stage.  Goldstein was a bit cagey and really only provided this interviewer with the barest details.  All I was able to glean is that an 80 year old ex-Mossad (Israeli intelligence) agent travels from Israel to visit a 62 year old middle-class woman in England to deliver some news.  In a recent panel discussion last Saturday, Goldstein promised that the theatergoer will be surprised by the plot’s convolutions.

Though our reluctant playwright claims only to be a novelist he does have a few films in the making. Keep your eyes peeled for an extended version of Mandate Memories on the big screen.   Call the box office for tickets 858-481-1055 or go online to

Eva Trieger is a freelance writer specializing in the arts.  She may be contacted via [email protected]  San Diego Jewish World seeks sponsorships to be placed, as this notice is, just below articles that appear on our site.  This is an ideal opportunity for your corporate message or to
personally remember a loved one’s contributions to our community.  To inquire, call editor Donald H. Harrison at (619) 265-0808 or contact him via [email protected]


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