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Screenwriter and novelist Peter Lefcourt has never written himself into a corner

Once labeled 'difficult,' he now works on 'Desperate Housewives,' has a play running in Los Feliz and recently completed another novel.

November 27, 2009|By Lisa Rosen

In 2000, Showtime tapped Lefcourt to create a satire of the TV business. He brought on writers Charlie Hauck ("Frasier, "Home Improvement") and David Shore to work with him on "Beggars and Choosers." "We didn't need any technical advice. It was our life," Lefcourt notes.

Shore, creator of Fox's "House," says "Beggars" "may have been the most pleasant job of my life." He first met Lefcourt on "Due South," Shore's first writing gig. "I'd been working there for three months, and Peter came in. After 24 hours he was telling me the lay of the land. He became my rabbi, telling me where things stood, and where I should stand."

Lefcourt's career has seen so many ups and downs, it makes sense that he would be drawn to write a play about such upheavals.

"La Ronde de Lunch," now playing at the Skylight Theatre, takes the central conceit from Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 play, "La Ronde," in which couples whirl through 10 sexual entanglements; in Lefcourt's imagining, sex is replaced with lunch. At a pretentious restaurant, one couple after another -- aging star and producer, producer and studio executive, executive and agent, and so on -- banter over breadsticks to further their careers. "It struck me that in our town, lunch is not a meal," Lefcourt says. "It's a war game."

Writers' room

The play was first produced in 1992, and he has updated it as needed for successive revivals. His wife, Terri Hanauer, directs this incarnation. (In a neat plot twist, she first fell for him after seeing the 1992 show.)

Lefcourt also just completed a new novel, "An American Family," about five siblings in a Jewish American family growing up during the turbulent 1960s and '70s. "The subject is assimilation," he says, calling it culturally autobiographical.

Last summer, Marc Cherry, a fan of "Beggars and Choosers," invited Lefcourt to work on Cherry's "Desperate Housewives." Lefcourt has been at it for four months, "in a room with a dozen of the funniest, darkest senses of humor in Hollywood."

"I was surprised" by Cherry's offer, Lefcourt says. "I thought that I'd retired, but apparently I hadn't. I still marvel that I've been able to pull this off for 35 years."

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