A comic intermezzo in the spirit of Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona, The Filthy Habit updates the story of Wolf-Ferarri's Il Segreto di Susanna for modern times. Set in Manhattan in the summer of 2003, Habit tells the story of a newlywed couple's struggle with Mayor Bloomberg's new smoking ban. The Filthy Habit was first created as a companion to Trouble in Tahiti (1951) by Leonard Bernstein.
A trio of hip Greenwich Villagers introduce us to Susan, a newlywed and a sneaky smoker. Her new husband Gil, though sweet, is an ardent health nut, and she must hide her smoking from him. However, when Mayor Bloomberg bans smoking from all bars and restaurants, as well as offices and public buildings, Susan brings her habit home, and has a clandestine puff in their apartment as she rants against the fugitive lifestyle of smokers in New York City.
Gil comes home early from the gym, extolling the virtues of clean living. When Susan runs off to the showers to get the smoky smell out of her clothes and hair, Gil's bloodhound nose catches a whiff of her cigarette, and blind to idea that his wife might smoke, he assumes the worst - that she is having an affair with a smoker, who must have just left the apartment. Gil ponders what kind of man might be seeing his wife… perhaps a rebellious youth, a swarthy European, or maybe a cowboy from "Flavor Country"? (Each incarnation is represented by a mute dancer seducing Susan in pantomime.) Gil runs out of the house, hysterical with jealousy and grief.
Finding herself alone, Susan lights up again, and again indulges in her secret affair with nicotine. (also represented by the dancer.) Gil bursts in and finds her smoking, and Susan admits to him that, just as he has his exercise and health regiment to call his own, smoking is the pastime that keeps her at peace with herself. Gil agrees to be less obsessive in his fitness pursuits, if she will phase out her smoking. She agrees, and they race off to the bedroom to do what newlyweds do.
As the trio sings a welcome to their new honest relationship, Susan runs out and hides her last pack of cigarettes where she might retrieve them later.
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Like its companion piece Trouble in Tahiti, the music of The Filthy Habit is heavily infused with elements of American Jazz and Blues. There is also an element of 1940s noir film scoring that permeates the harmonic language of the p