The Love Story Behind The Love Story

By Madison McAllister

In today’s digital age, is there a point to writing love letters, when you can give your sweetheart a phone call or send an email, text, or tweet? Playwright Jason Odell Williams would argue that there is. And to prove it, he didn’t just write a letter to his wife. He wrote her an entire play.

Handle With Care, a fictional romantic comedy, is inspired by the playwright’s Israeli wife, Charlotte Cohn, who also wrote the Hebrew in the script. Williams told an interviewer, “I wanted to write a play for my wife. I was an actor at the time, and was becoming tired of bad auditions and mediocre plays that were angry and about ‘serious important issues.’ I wanted to write a romantic comedy that people ages 8 to 88 could enjoy.” Williams did just that.

Williams and Cohn didn’t just co-write the play, they’ve even both performed together in productions of Handle With Care.

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Charlotte Cohn and Carole Lawrence in Westside Theatre’s production of Handle With Care. Photo by Russ Rowland (2014).

“The idea of us working together came about organically. We increasingly found ourselves interested in working together more and more,” he said in an interview.

Williams admitted it can be difficult to keep their personal and professional lives separate. But in an industry where it’s hard for a writer to find a trustworthy partner, he found his wife to be the best writing partner for him.

“When I get feedback from someone I love, respect, and trust, I know it’s only coming from a good place, trying to make the piece better,” he shared. “I trust her taste and instincts completely!”

Jason Odell Williams is an award-winning playwright, Emmy-nominated television producer, and no stranger to FST. Called “a postmodern Clifford Odets” by The Los Angeles Times, Williams is an active member of the FST Playwrights Collective, dedicated to supporting playwrights at various stages in their careers in developing new works for the stage.

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Playwright Jason Odell Williams

Williams’ plays have been performed Off-Broadway at New World Stages and the Westside Theatre as well as in theatres across the country. Handle With Care was a New York Times Critics’ Pick when it ran Off-Broadway starring Carol Lawrence. The play has been produced 27 times in the last five years in the U.S. and Canada, and won three Theatre Bay Area Awards including Outstanding Production.

Jason lives in Manhattan with his wife, their daughter (a budding actress-singer-graphic novelist), and their rescued dog who loves chasing squirrels.

Handle with Care plays through March 8 in FST’s Keating Theatre. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.