Saturday, November 7, 2020


Diane Ladd, Robert De Niro.

ONE NIGHT STANDS OF A NOISY PASSENGER [Drama/One-Acts/Romance] A: Shelley Winters; D: Patricia Carmichael; S: Peter Harvey; C: Joseph G. Aulisi; L: Roger Morgan; P: Howard Otway, Susan Richardson, Lawrence Goosen; T: Actors Playhouse (OB); 12/30/70-1/3/71 (7)

“The Noisy Passenger” [Politics/Sex]; “Un Passage” [Film/Politics/Sex]; “Last Stand” [Drugs/Film/Sex]

Sally Kirkland, Richard Lynch.

This failed evening of three one-acts was a minor cause cèlébre chiefly because its author was a famous movie and stage star notorious for her numerous romantic peccadilloes with leading actors and directors. It also gave the unknown, 27year-old Robert De Niro his Off-Broadway debut shortly before his sensational explosion into movie stardom.

Because each of the plays reveals an attractive woman and her current lover, and since the plays range from the 1940s to the 1960s, during which this woman grows progressively older, the press was certain the show was based on Winters’s own romantic life. The central figure is seen first, in 1940, as a tender, naïve virgin (Sally Kirkland)—or, at least, she thinks she’s a virgin, with Marxist/Stalinist leanings. She’s in love with a Greenwich Village actor (Richard Lynch) who insures she’s not a virgin while also raising her level of political awareness. 

In 1953, she’s a B-list movie actress (Elizabeth Franz) making a movie in Paris under the direction of her husband, a leftist director (Sam Schacht). Sen. Joseph McCarthy is making waves in Washington with his political witch-hunt. The director must fly to D.C. to testify, where he’ll be asked to name names. The actress frets: will he or won’t he? 

In the third piece, the heroine (Diane Ladd), a distinguished, but aging and disillusioned, movie star has won the Academy Award. She is goes to the pop-art home of a rough-edged, energetically vital, hippie-like actor (De Niro), where they listen to rock music and do drugs, she tripping on LSD for the first time.

The response was lukewarm. Edith Oliver likened the event to “a whole evening of audition material.” Similar reactions killed the work before it ran a week. Clive Barnes wrote that “Miss Winters seems to suggest that only the cynical can exist in a cold world where idealism freezes over and only the self-knowledge of the self‐seeker is sufficient.” While admitting that Winters had writing talent, he argued that “The stories are out of True Confessions. They sound too much like the idly uninteresting gossip behind one of those trivial nudging paragraphs by Hedda Hopper.”

A more favorable voice was Jack Kroll’s. He thought it an “appealing, warm, genial, funny, entertaining and even serious work.” Winters complained that the other critics totally misunderstood the play’s political implications, which she intended as a revelation of “the shifting position of the liberal since Hitler.”

The acting was highly praised, especially that of Kirkland, Ladd, and the young De Niro, who was called “brilliant” by Kroll and “stunning” by Arthur Sainer.