CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU
by Philip Middleton Williams
Donny is a successful writer of romance novels living in the Florida Keys with his girlfriend, Anna, a successful realtor. Both have what they think is their dream life. To make things even better, Donny’s agent Barbara arrives to offer him more money by turning his bodice-rippers into made-for-TV movies. But then, Bobby Cramer appears. He is the main character in the novel that Donny abandoned to write romance novels. Bobby asks Donny: “Why have you left me in the bottom of your desk drawer? I’d like to know what happened to me.” This leads to a series of confrontations between the author and his fictional character who is, in many ways, the guy Donny wishes he could be. Meanwhile, Anna begins to look at her life and wonders if just selling real estate is all there is for her. She’d like to start a family. Donny must choose between Anna and their comfortable life or Bobby and the unknown.
Cast Size: 3M 2W
Running Time: 90+ minutes
Royalty Rate: $75 per performance
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About the Playwright
Philip Middleton Williams has written over sixty plays ranging from one-minute to full-length. “A Moment of Clarity” and “A Life Enriching Community” were finalists in the City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting. “All Together Now” won first place in the 2016 Playgroup playwriting contest and was produced as part of the Willow Theatre 2017-2018 season. “Can’t Live Without You” was his first play to receive an off-off Broadway production in January 2008, and was produced by The Playgroup for their 2018-2019 season at The Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida. Three selections from “Can’t Live Without You” are included in The Best Men’s Monologues for 2019, published by the Applause Acting Series. “A Life Enriching Community” is published and licensed through Senior Theatre Resources. “Dark Twist” is published and licensed through Next Stage Press. “Home-Style Cooking at the Gateway Cafe” has been selected for inclusion in the Smith & Kraus anthology The Ten Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2022, published in December 2022.
His work has been seen in the South Florida One-Minute Play Festivals, the Midwest Dramatist Conference, the William Inge Theatre Festival New Play Labs, Bartell Theatre of Madison, Wisconsin, Odenbear Theatre of Taos, New Mexico, Theatre Roulette of Columbus, Ohio, the Short+Sweet Festival of Sydney, Australia, the Valdez Theatre Conference of Alaska, Vermont Pride Theater, Silver Tongued Stages of Miami, Seaside Players of Lauderdale by the Sea, Theatre Arts Productions of Palm Beach, Open Eye Theater of Margaretville, New York, and Bendigo Theatre Company of Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.
He has a B.F.A. in drama from the University of Miami, an M.F.A. in theatre from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and a PhD in playwriting and dramatic criticism from the University of Colorado. In 1992 he was appointed to the national advisory board of the William Inge Theatre Festival. He has written numerous articles on the works of William Inge and Lanford Wilson and contributed to The Facts on File Companion to American Drama edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Mary C. Hartig. His doctoral thesis, “A Comfortable House – Lanford Wilson, Marshall W. Mason and the Circle Repertory Theatre,” was published by McFarland and Company in 1993. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
High concept, low-comedy, sophisticated wit, and hilarious farce are mixed expertly in Philip Middleton William’s smart romantic comedy “Can’t Live Without You.” Serious life choices are questioned but not given short shrift as the play bubbles along like a cocktail that reveals deeper layers of flavor with each sip, and in the end packs quite a satisfying punch.
A play with a situation familiar to artists everywhere. A story with layers and emotions as complex as any classical work. Philip Middleton Williams takes the scenario of “trouble in paradise” to new heights in this equal parts dramatic and comedic mystery that keeps you reading from end to end of the script. The setting may be idyllic Florida, and the characters may be hilarious (especially Bobby who matches wits with Donny in some of the most witty dialogue exchanges you’ll find anywhere) but make no mistake the stakes are high and the questions demand reflection and quiet thought.
This portrait of a writer at a crisis point mostly of his own making is hilarious and gripping. Williams perfectly captures the breezy, sun-soaked atmosphere of a setting that fails to soothe a cast of characters who are all discontented in their own specific ways. The use of a character in the protagonist’s head is a bold stroke that really works here; it adds dimension to the protagonist’s journey even as it brings in another comic touch. This writer’s work never fails to impress in every way.
Williams’ writing is perfection. Every character, plotline, moment, line, word… carefully and thoughtfully examined and laid bare. Nothing extraneous; all of it brimming with meaning. In Can’t Live Without You, Donny, a prolific yet repressed author, is given the opportunity of a lifetime: a movie deal and a re-negotiated contract that will assuredly lock in his legacy as an eminent writer of trashy romance stories. Enter Bobby Cramer, Donny’s alter ego, the protagonist from an abandoned novel of actual worth, whose relentless cajoling triggers a long overdue reawakening in Donny. A simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking tale of starting over. Divine.
A resonating and compelling play where writer Donny realizes that he has slowly and steadily lost his true self to live a pleasant, but not authentic, life. As he is confronted by himself in the form of a character he created in an unfinished novel, he is also confronted by his partner to make a life choice that would completely close off the path back to his former self. No matter which path Donny chooses, hurt, pain, and loss is inevitable. Another beautiful and heartbreaking play by the brilliant Philip Middleton Williams.
What a terrific play! “Can’t Live Without You” finds Donny, a writer of successful if uninspiring romance novels, working to meet his deadline when Bobby, the protagonist of his unfinished Great American Novel, shows up and makes him take a long, hard look at his life. The characters are rich and layered, the dialogue is engaging, and I love all the the little theatrical moments, especially the scene in which two of Donny’s characters appear, interact, rewind, and start again as Donny writes and deletes, writes and deletes. Then Bobby starts interrogating them, and it’s pretty much perfect. So good!
You are familiar with the conceit: A writer is confronted by one of his own characters. But playwright Philip Middleton Williams takes this conceit and runs with it in directions you aren’t expecting, exploring relationships and life choices and so much more. Wise and witty, give this one a read.
This is a really good play, which explores a situation that many writers imagine: what if a character you’ve started to write, but didn’t complete, comes to you and demands to be complete! It simultaneously deals with choices made in late-early or early-Midlife and what one really wants in life and career. It’s very witty, and the audiences who saw the premiere production loved it! Your audiences will too!
What more could you want? One set, small cast, well-rounded characters, engaging story, all put together by Williams’s sure hand. Donny, a writer of bodice-ripping romances, has always allowed other people—his girlfriend, his agent—to make major life decisions for him. Now Bobby, a character from Donny’s never-completed work of serious fiction, manifests himself, demanding all of Donny’s attention. But working on Bobby’s novel would require Donny to make radical changes in his relationships and income. Reality and inspiration collide in this excellent work.
An entertaining and beautifully crafted play. With the sharp, precise dialogue we have come to expect from Williams, and a character who literally leaps off the page, this intriguing story comes to life. An unpredictable romantic comedy that packs lots of laughs, Can’t Live Without You is right on target for anyone who has ever wondered what happened to their big dream.
Review Can’t Live Without You.