But leave it to an angry punk at heart to turn failure into inspiration. His newest work, ROOMS, a taut, two-person show about Monica and Ian, two rockers trying to make it in 1970s London and 1980s New York, is now at New World Stages starring Doug Kreeger and Leslie Kritzer. TheaterMania recently sat down with Goodman and the show's book writer, Miriam Gordon (who also happens to be his wife) to chat about ambition, adversity, and second chances.
THEATERMANIA: Are you pleased with how the show is shaping up?
PAUL SCOTT GOODMAN: Yes. I still can't believe it's even happening. I've had so many disappointments and setbacks and false starts in my career.
TM: I assume one of the "disappointments" you're referring to is Bright Lights, Big City?
PSG: It was the biggest disappointment of my professional life by far. There was something very good there and somehow it became different than what I originally envisioned. The biggest lesson for me artistically was you've got to be really careful to nurture your first image of a show. ROOMS is the way I saw it in my head when I was writing. We've kept it simple. It's all about the songs and the performances.
TM: Did you two decide to collaborate on ROOMS from the get- go?
MIRIAM GORDON: Actually, I joined the project two years later [after Goodman's original collaborator died]. I remember that we took a walk to the Lower East Side in January, and we started to talk about the plot and the characters and the themes and what Paul was trying to say. We were a little nervous. We had collaborated before, but it's never easy. It's hard on our marriage and hard on the kids. But at the same time, it's natural for us to work together. Paul's shows are all musically driven, and his voice runs throughout all of them. So if I'm working on the dialogue, I have to write in his voice.
TM: How autobiographical is the show?
PSG: I'd say 60 percent. There really was an Ian, but it's not me. I'm more Monica. Ian was the first songwriting partner I ever had. He probably influenced me more than anybody I had ever met up until that point in terms of music and lifestyle. I haven't seen him for like 25 years.
TM: What does the title mean?
MG: The show also deals with ambition and failure and success. Paul and I have a tendency to write about people involved in theater and music, but we try to make the themes universal. So the title is a metaphor for the places that you visit and the life journeys that you've taken. How do you find that right room out of all the rooms you visit in your life?
TM: The show did very well when it played at MetroStage in Virginia last year. Did all the good reviews surprise you?
PSG: It was a miracle! Peter Marks had reviewed Bright Lights, Big City for The New York Times and killed it. So when I heard he was going to review this show for The Washington Post, it was all I could think about on opening night. And he liked it!
TM: Natascia Diaz got excellent notices when she played Monica in D.C., and yet Leslie Kritzer has replaced her for this run. Can you share why?
PSG: [After a pause] I would say this: Natascia is a brilliant performer and I love her dearly. She's fantastic. We've worked together several times. But when we decided to move the show to New York, we recast the role. We had our reasons, and nobody needs to know what they are. Let's just say everything has to serve the show -- and what was best for the show was to recast.
TM: Are you nervous that the production might be a flop?
PSG: We're just grateful to get another chance. It took a while, but this is a different kind of show -- so I just want to enjoy the experience, whatever happens.