Thursday, November 19, 2020

386. P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Jennifer Warren, Keir Dullea.

P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD [Comedy/Crime/Homosexuality/Sex] A: James Kirkwood; D: Vivian Matalon S/L: William Ritman; C: Frank J. Boros; P: Richard Barr, Charles Woodward, and Terry Spiegel; T: John Golden Theatre; 4/7/75-4/20/75 (16)

Keir Dullea, Tony Musante.

This addition to the gay sweepstakes so evident in 1970s theatre pictured a Greenwich Village flat one snowy New Year’s Eve. The tenant, Jimmy (Keir Dullea), an actor in his late 30s with a troubled career and an equally disturbed relationship with his girlfriend, Kate (Jenny Warren), arrives home to discover a burglar. The thief, Vito (Tony Musante), is overpowered by Jimmy and tied face down over the kitchen sink where, to allow him to urinate, his pants are soon removed, exposing his rear end.

Bill Moor, Anthony Ponzini, Mary Hammil., 

At first, both men seem conventionally straight. However, the wily Vito soon tries to seduce his determinedly hetero captor into having sex. The play turns from a rather funny comedy of sadomasochistic repartee into a pro-gay propaganda tract. The continued objections from Jimmy gradually subside as it appears that a bond of affection has begun to tie the men together. Vito ends up staying the night, albeit in a separate bed.

Jennifer Warren, Peter White, Tony Musante, Keir Dullea.

The play was viewed by John Simon as an “ultradishonest” work trying unsuccessfully to hide its nature as a “homosexual wish-fulfillment” fantasy. The plot’s implausibility was a major sore point with him and others, as was the author’s clearly anti-feminine bias, brought out in the characterizations of the play’s two women. A few critics chuckled at the many bitchy, gay-oriented laugh lines, but too many others were “painfully blunt and obvious," as Douglas Watt put it. Watt also jibed at the poorly defined roles of Jimmy and Vito.

The performances, direction, and setting were acceptably slick, but the play had no staying power and was gone in two weeks. It was revived in 1978, however, for an Off-Broadway run of 301 performances. Regardless, playwright James Kirkwood had little to worry about financially by then. A little show whose book he co-wrote with Nicholas Dante, which had opened Off Broadway just as P.S. Your Cat is Dead was getting off the ground, had moved to Broadway soon after. Its title was A Chorus Line and it would break box-office records for years.