ARTURO’S WINDOW is drawn from the fantastic true story of John Loan (aka John Jerome) who embezzled $4 million and spent it all. Our play brings the details of the case to light for the first time, with some alteration in names and places to protect identities. Eight actors, one pianist, one cabaret singer and nine original songs move us between interview and enactment, as we follow the strange odyssey of John Jerome.
The story begins in the early 1990's, when John is working as a corporate party planner for a major investment company in NYC. When his partner Jamie tests positive for HIV, John pays for expensive experimental medications with his corporate credit card. He takes them both on trips to Europe, to Lourdes, for the healing waters, and to Paris and Rome on extravagant five star visits
He follows the use of the credit card with more creative maneuvers to get the money he spends in a swiftly escalating pattern. Years later, at a window table in Arturo’s Restaurant, John tells his entire story to Cheryl, a ghost writer. His goal, as he desribes it to her, is to "set the record straight." He gave no interviews after his arrest, and believes that telling the truth in a public forum will give him the relief he needs from the demons of his past.
John shares details of his mad escapades: lavish corporate party planning, compulsive efforts to get health care for the dying, and vacations in Europe for himself and ailing friends, all on the company tab. Tales of John’s Roman holiday contrast with Last Rites at the bedside at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and nights spent alone, drinking red wine in the window at Arturo’s Restaurant.
We hear the personal details about John’s life for the first time – his love affair with Barrett, an Episcopal priest, his grief at the death of Verna, an African American mother of two, whom John meets at St. Vincent's during Jamie's time in the hospital.
We watch John in action as a party planner, interacting with Donna Robbins, the corporate executive for whom he works, whose charisma and power serve as a model for John’s own ambitions.
We meet members of the cabaret community, including Kirk, an attractive young singer for whom John creates Jerome Records. We watch his spending spiral out of control, on recording contracts and benefit productions.
John and Cheryl become fast friends, as they frankly and honestly explore John’s motives. “But why did you do that?” becomes the question neither of them can answer. The meetings between them veer from easy to testy, and back again, as they examine his behaviors from alternate viewpoints.
The tension builds between John's chosen self-image and the truth he is unearthing, and he responds with addictive behavior. He lapses from sobriety into a drunken episode at a Park Avenue party, then from a shaky autonomy into sequential love affairs, marked by codependent behavior. The relationships end, poisoned by secrecy, and his fear of intimacy.
As Cheryl proves a useful mirror and a valuable ally, John gains control over his self-sabotage and addictions. He becomes more at ease with uncovering unpleasant truths; he shares tales of his time in jail on Riker’s Island, the violent assault that occurred there, and his vigorous, and reckless, advocacy for the rights of inmates with HIV and HepC.
The truth becomes the slippery object of their quest, and they find different versions of it at every turn. Their relationship visibly deepens, in scenes full of banter, sympathy, and shared confidences. She helps him unravel not only his need to save others, but his hunger for influence and recognition.
In a warmly humorous song called “And Another Thing”, John finally finds a way to tell the story of his crime to a new love interest, ending the social isolation caused by his fear of revealing his past. He resumes his volunteer work at St. Vincent's and accepts a scholarship to study social work at Lehman College.
John and Cheryl meet in Arturo’s Window for nearly four years. Finally, through telling his story, he is able to accept a measure of forgiveness, find a sense of peace and a new freedom in the truth.