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Drivas, Robert (1938-1986)  
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Drivas and McNally found that they shared a sense of humor, and Drivas proved game for participating in the challenges crafted by McNally to the ways in which sexual relationships--particularly male same-sex relationships--could be presented on stage.

McNally would write at least two more plays specifically for Drivas. Audiences were shocked by Sweet Eros (1968), a one-act play in which a beguiling yet domineering young man plays a sexual cat-and-mouse game with a naked girl whom he has gagged and bound to a chair. The play, which called for the actor to deliver what amounts to a ten-page dramatic monologue, opened Off-Broadway on Drivas's presumptive thirtieth birthday.

Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? (1971) might well have been conceived as a love letter to Drivas, for the play seems to have been written to showcase both his acting skills and his personal charisma.

In this raucous challenge to the shallowness and hypocrisy of American culture, which proved simultaneously a biting comment on the failure of the 1960s youth revolution, Drivas played an outrageously charismatic anarchist who cuts a festive swath of social and sexual chaos across contemporary Manhattan. Audiences who were titillated by Drivas's impersonation of Marilyn Monroe in one scene were shocked at the play's denouement by his transformation into a mad bomber.

Influential critic Clive Barnes commented that "Robert Drivas as Tommy gives what must surely be the sweetest and most radiant performance of his career. He is full of sunshine, and gives Tommy Flowers a quality of innocent goodness that even makes his anti-social behavior seem moral."

Drivas's appearance in McNally's early plays cemented his reputation as an actor adept at playing psychologically intense--at times even vaguely psychotic--roles.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Drivas made numerous appearances in such television dramas as The F. B. I., The Bold Ones, Bonanza, Hawaii Five-O, The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, The Defenders, East Side/West Side, and Route 66.

Drivas was featured as "Loudmouth Steve" in Cool Hand Luke (directed by Stuart Rosenberg, 1967), a popular and critically applauded film about a Southern prison work camp that starred Paul Newman. And he delivered a mesmerizing performance opposite Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom in The Illustrated Man (directed by Jack Smight, 1969), a confusing film made from a novel by Ray Bradbury about a man who searches for the woman who tattooed his body, each tattooed image pulling the viewer into a different psychedelic state.

Other film roles include a bravura turn as a truck driver in Joseph Strick's cult film, Road Movie (1974), and as a murderer in Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (1976, also released under the title Demon).

Drivas enjoyed a final stage success as "Himself" in Edward Albee's The Man Who Had Three Arms (1983). This demanding role, which Albee biographer Mel Gussow speculates that Albee wrote with Drivas in mind, required him to deliver almost eighty percent of the full-length play as a dramatic monologue.

Unfortunately, the absurdist satire about the price of success and celebrity, which was also Albee's smack at critics and audiences who treat experimental artists like himself as freaks, closed after only sixteen performances. Drivas's masterly negotiation of the play's shifts in tone from stuffy complacency to absurdist outrage received far better notices than Albee's script, which possibly remains the great playwright's least often performed play.

Drivas the Director

Drivas's relationship with McNally allowed him to make an easy segue from actor to director.

In 1973 Drivas accompanied McNally to Yale University where the latter was in residence as a Fellow in Playwrighting. While at Yale, McNally worked on a sexual farce initially titled "The Tubs" about an unassuming garbage collector from Cleveland who inadvertently takes refuge in a seedy gay bathhouse in lower Manhattan from his vengeful Mafioso brother-in-law.

Drivas directed the revised version, which opened on Broadway as The Ritz on January 20, 1975, starring Jack Weston as the hapless misfit; Jerry Stiller as his sadistic brother-in-law; Stephen Collins as a handsome private detective whose falsetto voice belies his heterosexuality; F. Murray Abraham as a promiscuous sexual reveler named Chris who takes the terrified garbage man under his wing and helps him negotiate the dual challenge of hiding from his brother-in-law's thugs and negotiating the sexual maze of the baths; and--most famously--a Tony Award-winning Rita Moreno as an gloriously untalented, malaprop-spouting club performer eager to be cast in a Broadway show.

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