Few newly minted playwrights can claim Tom Stoppard among their fans—except, perhaps, in their dreams. But in 2004 Itamar Moses found himself riding with the prolific Brit on a midnight train back to New York from Philadelphia, where both writers had plays being produced. The pair swapped ideas, and Stoppard later offered to write the introduction to the print version of Bach at Leipzig, Moses’s rollicking piece about a 1722 incident in which the composer competed against other musicians to be organist of the German town. When Bach arrived in Manhattan in 2005, some critics paid more attention to Stoppard’s stamp of approval than to Moses’s spry dialogue. “Our relationship did end up overshadowing the critical reception,” Moses concedes.
The Four of Us, which opened Off Broadway last spring, kicked off more speculation. Although Moses has evaded addressing it publicly, the play’s subject—the rivalry between two twentysomething writers, one a struggling playwright, the other a novelist with a $2 million advance—was clearly based on his longtime friendship with Everything Is Illuminated wunderkind Jonathan Safran Foer. “It would be disingenuous to say I learned nothing from watching somebody go through that,” Moses says.
In November, Moses, 31, returns to the Manhattan Theatre Club with Back, Back, Back, about the steroid-fueled careers of three professional baseball players.
“I wanted to investigate why I so desperately wanted to believe their achievements were genuine,” Moses, a Bay Area native and Giants fan, says of the national scandal.
And while competition is a running theme in his work, Moses, who writes at a café near the Park Slope, Brooklyn, brownstone he shares with three roommates, is in no rush for bigger Hollywood paychecks. “I’ve been able to cobble together a stable living,” he says. “Having a huge windfall of money isn’t really a goal of mine.”