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Michael R. Farkash, 53; Playwright, Screenwriter Known for Humor

June 18, 2005|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Michael R. Farkash, a playwright and screenwriter who also wrote for local publications, including the Hollywood Reporter, has died. He was 53.

Farkash was found dead June 9 in his Granada Hills home. His family attributed the death to natural causes and said he had been under a doctor's care for a series of illnesses.

Quiet and unassuming, Farkash was known to his readers for his quirky, often macabre sense of humor.

After writing science fiction stories for many years, he turned to scripts and screenplays in the mid-1980s, beginning with short pieces for the Padua Hills Playwrights' Festival.

He followed his 1989 black comedy "Perpetual Care" with the darkly sardonic "Meat Dreams" (1990), about a delicatessen owner run amok.

"What I love about Mike's writing," actor and "Meat Dreams" director Barry Livingston told The Times in 1991, "is his surprisingly twisted, poetic language."

A Times reviewer called "Meat Dreams" an "insanely logical comedy," adding: "Like Farkash's play, [deli owner] Henry's voice isn't merely seductive craziness. Under both of them pulsates a strong sense for human foibles, as when Henry comments that 'people make their own accidents.' Those are the kind of lines we go to the theater for."

Farkash delved into musicals in 1991 with the farcical "Frozen Futures" at Theatre/Theater in Hollywood.

The production, created with musicians Miriam Cutler and Keith Bilderbeck, featured a couple who resort to cryogenics to escape present-day urban decline.

Although they expect to thaw out in a better future, they find instead a totalitarian world where defrosted heads are a dime a dozen.

"This idea of jumping across time, cheating death," Farkash told The Times during the play's run, "is the vanity of the Egyptian pharaohs all over again. I'm making fun of this kind of vanity that takes over people who think they deserve to live at the expense of others."

He went on to write plays such as "Fontana Produce," about gay-bashing, and "Stolen Time," about a New Age guru advocating sex between people and extraterrestrials.

Among Farkash's films was the independent "Street Vengeance," which he wrote and produced in 1997.

Since September, he had worked for the Santa Clara Signal as a humor columnist and had continued to freelance for the Hollywood Reporter.

Previously, he had worked as an editor, critic or reporter at the Ventura County Star, the Antelope Valley Press and the Simi Valley Enterprise.

Farkash, a graduate of Cal State Northridge, is survived by his mother, Selma Farkash, and two sisters, Renee Applebaum and Debra Rosen.

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