Wednesday, October 7, 2020

342. NAOMI COURT. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Jordan Charney, Brad Davis.

[Drama/Homosexuality/Romance] A: Michael Sawyer; D: Ira Cirker; S/L: Andrew Greenhut; P: Leonard Schlosberg i/a/w Jean Dalrymple; T: Manhattan Theatre Club Stage 73 (OB); 9/10/74-12/26/74 (73)

Two interlocked one-acts that take place in a soon-to-be razed New York tenement called Naomi Court, where two lonely, middle-aged souls—a virginal spinster, Miss Dugan (Sally Gracie), and David (Jordan Charney), a gay man—are the last remaining tenants.

The first episode concentrates on the woman, who ambles about her disheveled apartment as she presides over a farewell party while simultaneously fantasizing about the seashore and a sailor-lover she dreams of marrying. In the other episode, the unassuming David dreams of being brutalized by Harper (Brad Davis), handsome young stud he picks up and brings to his flat. Each episode ends with the victim’s imagined demise.

Several exceptionally favorable reviews greeted Naomi Court. Howard Thompson called it a “stunning, haunting new play . . . so eerily numbing in its flow of quiet wisdom, pathos and savagery that it simply must be seen.” Walter Kerr devoted a lengthy notice to it, describing the detailed 1950s naturalism of its manner, and calling it “a work of most marked, even mature talent, sure of its tones of voice.” But John Simon was antipathetic, writing: “The first [act] is wholly devoid of interest; the second has some disquieting authenticity . . . but brings its less than novel theme no new insight.” Few disputed the high quality of the acting.

Naomi Court had been born as an Off-Off Broadway workshop staging, received an Off-Off production at the Manhattan Theatre Club for 10 showings from May 29, 1974, and then moved on to this full Off-Broadway version featuring two of the actors from the previous production (Gracie and Davis). After it closed, it reopened Off-Off Broadway for another month of performances.