Friday, November 13, 2020

380. OUR LATE NIGHT. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

OUR LATE NIGHT [Comedy/Marriage/Sex] A: Wallace Shawn; D: Andre Gregory; S: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: Ara Gallant; L: Victor En Yu Tan; P: New York Shakespeare Festival and Lyn Austin; T: Public Theater/Martinson Hall (OB); 1/9/75-4/20/75 (119)

Note: no photos of this production are available.

The experimental theatre company called the Manhattan Project made a rare departure from its typical menu of unusual stagings of established or adapted texts to do this new play (Wallace Shawn's first) that Clive Barnes called “the sickest of sick jokes.” He noted that it was “the most obscene show in town,” dubbing it “one of the most unpleasant plays I have seen in years.” He did, however, approve of the “defiant stylishness” of Andre Gregory’s production. (Wallace and Gregory have had a decades-long collaboration that continues today.) John Simon described the play as “one long string of obscene or scatological nonjokes mouthed by nonpeople, as if the author counted on making his name by throwing swill before swine.”

Its plot is about a cocktail party given by a married couple at which the guests, seated at a very large sofa, chat on and on about the most bizarre sexual fantasies and experiences, and now and then flirt overtly with one another, or go off to vomit, very audibly, in the bathroom. The stories grow more outrageous as the evening wears on, until the guests finally leave their, by now, shocked hosts. Alone again, the latter reveal “a few darkened monstrosities” of their own, as Barnes reported.

Troy Jollimore, on a blog called “Longreads” cites Public Theater producer Joseph Papp as saying: “Some [people in the audience] were shouting, and one man got up and walked around in a menacing way. They didn’t even know they were doing it. Wally was looking around the theater, very perplexed—he didn’t realize he had gotten rid of his own sexual mania and given it to everybody else.”

The cast included Gerry Bamman, Tom Costello, Angela Pietropinto, and Larry Pine, among others.

The OBIES, interestingly, gave Shawn an award for Distinguished Playwriting.