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Drivas, Robert (1938-1986)  
 
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The Ritz proved the surprise hit of the season, running 400 performances. McNally later commented that this was possibly the most subversive show he had written inasmuch as it asked largely straight, upper-middle-class audiences to watch the manic goings-on in a gay bathhouse and not only to accept as a given a largely alien way of life, but to care about the characters and their emotional and sexual needs. Drivas's direction kept the farcical action moving at a fast pace and its sexual edge sharply honed. Midway through the run, Drivas succeeded the departing F. Murray Abraham as the sexually irrepressible Chris.

Drivas would win an Obie Award as Best Director for McNally's dark comedy about the American pursuit of faddish psychotherapeutic solutions to one's personal problems, Bad Habits (1974), which starred F. Murray Abraham, Doris Roberts, Paul Benedict, and Cynthia Harris.

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He would also direct his close friend James Coco in Albert Innaurato's disturbing portrait of a grossly obese young man who eats himself to death on stage, The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie (1977), and in a revival of the Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Carolyn Leight musical, Little Me (1982). Likewise, he would direct Elizabeth Ashley and F. Murray Abraham in Samuel Taylor's Legend (1976); Lou Jacobi, Jack Weston, and Doris Roberts in Michael Jacobs' Cheaters (1978); Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in their comedy It Had to Be You (1981); and sultry songstress Peggy Lee in her musical biography, Peg (1983).

Death

Drivas died on June 29, 1986 of a combination of AIDS-related complications that included Karposi's Sarcoma. Although Drivas and McNally had ceased to be lovers ten years earlier, they had continued to be close friends.

Following Drivas's death (and that a year later of another close friend, actor James Coco), McNally wrote Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1987) about the human need to connect. "We gotta connect," Johnny implores Frankie, echoing novelist E. M. Forster. "We just have to. Or we die."

In his preface to the published text, McNally wrote: "I still don't quite know where Frankie and Johnny came from. I do know that I began it shortly after I had lost my two best friends and dearest collaborators in the theater, Robert Drivas and James Coco. Friends seemed especially precious and life unbelievably fragile. I had always thought they would be in my personal and professional life forever. . . . I missed Bobby and Jimmy a lot. I still do, I always will, but I missed them less while I was writing Frankie and Johnny."

McNally also quietly memorialized Drivas in his television play Andre's Mother (1988) in which Hal tells his late partner's mother, from whom Andre had been alienated for several years, that "You should have come up the summer he played Hamlet. He was magnificent." Like Andre, Drivas had been particularly effective in the title role of Shakespeare's tragedy in a production at the Shakespeare Festival in Washington, D. C., that had been directed by Philip Burton, the father of actor Richard Burton.

In Andre's Mother, Hal's appropriation of Horatio's line, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" was McNally's moving benediction for all the AIDS dead. But it seems also to have been a private blessing for "my sweet Bobby," the man whom--at numerous fund raisers and political rallies to raise support for AIDS research and for the care of Persons with AIDS at which McNally spoke at the height of the pandemic--he rarely failed to include in the list of those lost to the plague.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

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arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

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literature >> Albee, Edward

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arts >> Barr, Richard

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arts >> Coco, James

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arts >> Cornell, Katharine, (1893-1974) and Guthrie McClintic (1893-1961)

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arts >> Dean, James

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literature >> Forster, E. M.

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arts >> Innaurato, Albert

Playwright Albert Innaurato's plays are as remarkable for the marginalizing ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and body image of their characters as they are for the author's refusal to adopt politically correct attitudes.

arts >> Kert, Larry

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    Bibliography
   

Gussow, Mel. Edward Albee: A Singular Journey. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.

McNally, Terrence. "A Few Words of Introduction." Three Plays by Terrence McNally: The Lisbon Traviata, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and It's Only a Play. New York: Plume, 1990. ix-xiii.

Weaver, Neal. "The Quiet and Scandalous World of Terrence McNally." In Touch 2.1 (Oct. 1974): 34-37, 77-79.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: Drivas, Robert  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2013  
    Date Last Updated February 5, 2013  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/drivas_robert.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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