THE EKLUND ǀ GOMES TEAM

By Robert Heide

Many years ago Lee Paton, first in America to present Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and Jack with Salome Jens at the Sullivan Street Theatre which she herself had created and also produced my first play Hector, about a retired college professor and her plaster dog, and my second play West of the Moon that featured two young men in an impromptu meeting in a doorway during a rainstorm, called me one night in a terrible state of anxiety. She was overwrought, had gained a lot of weight, and was in need of some kind of professional help. We first went to a doctor I knew named Karl Goldman, a psychology professor at NYU. In his apartment on the top floor at 123 Waverly Place, Karl had a salon where he collected interesting and sometimes disturbed young artists, playwrights, and poets. A father figure of sorts, Karl provided the beer, wine, and coffee and each week made a mammoth meatloaf for the hungry and broke. When Lee and I met with him one afternoon, he insisted that as creative, artistic individuals we might best relate to an existential type of therapy espoused by Rollo May in his case-study book Existence. That is how we both got to Robert Akeret, whose mentor was Rollo May.

POSTER FOR LA MAMA production of Robert Heide’s play Why Tuesday Never Has a Blue Monday has a photograph taken by Edward Wallowitch of a young girl looking through a bullet hole in a window. Poster courtesy of the author.

Lee did better than I did with him. He seemed to be uncomfortable with men, but it might have been that I felt uncomfortable with him. He would say, “Your father still has his hands on your throat,” and this was certainly true, as in our sessions I seemed to have difficulty finding words. Sessions were held in a penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side in a room filled with potted plants and trees. A beautiful blonde woman—his wife, Ann—would show me in. The doctor would already be seated across the room from where I would sit and squirm as he gazed into my mind with his penetrating eyes. A tall, handsome man, he had a warm, affirmative smile on his face when he greeted me. Later Lee married a dancer named Daniel Nagrin, and took up acting and painting. Some time after that I stopped seeing Dr.Akeret. He also published several successful books, including Photoanalysis which psychologically examined in detail ordinary family snapshots and the way people positioned themselves as they posed for the camera. In another of his books Not By Words Alone, he described a patient who was in love, dangerously, with a polar bear. Also in that book he confessed to the mistake of having an affair with a patient he called Mary Faye, a friend whom I had recommended to him. She was quite elegant and beautiful and thought they would be married, but he returned to his wife, and Mary Faye felt betrayed.

Dr. Akeret and his patient Mary Faye were the genesis and inspiration for an hour-long, two-character play I wrote Why Tuesday Never Has a Blue Monday—I picked up the title from a movie magazine article about the actress Tuesday Weld. In my play the character of Lois West is an actress in the midst of a nervous breakdown, going through an identity crisis while appearing as Joan of Arc in Shaw’s Saint Joan. She is experiencing difficulty differentiating between her stage role and her actual life. For the part of Lois West I immediately thought of Marilyn Roberts whom I had first seen onstage at the Actors Playhouse on Sheridan Square in a play by Gregory Rozakis entitled The Class. The play was about a hysterical actress in the Marilyn Monroe style and a method director modeled after Lee Strasberg who founded the Actors Studio. It was directed by my good friend Ron Link who had seen many therapists, been in and out of Payne Whitney a number of times, and was thoroughly familiar and in tune with the subject matter of Blue Monday which we sometimes called the play. In 1966 Link and Roberts had appeared together in a short play I did at La Mama on Second Avenue as part of a festival of new plays. It was entitled Statue—Link enacted an ‘Everyman’ character named ‘Death.’ Marilyn played the role of an innocent young girl—the script called for an innocent young boy—but Ronnie wanted Marilyn.

In 1966 also, Ellen Stewart produced Blue Monday at La Mama with Marilyn, a kind of blonde-goddess-Marilyn Monroe herself, playing out the neurotic scenes with gusto, and a tall handsome Patrick Sullivan as the doctor; Link directed it forcefully and the set was designed by Paul Hamlin with costumes by Ellen herself who had been a clothing designer for Saks Fifth Avenue before she opened her off-off Broadway theater. She created a billowing white dress but Ron wanted it to be in flaming-red; and that is what he got. The play received excellent reviews from the Village Voice, Show Business and other papers praising the two actors and Links direction. Following its premiere at La Mama Why Tuesday Never Has a Blue Monday and my Caffe Cino hit Moon was presented at the National Catholic Theatre Conference in Washington DC presided over by the critic John Lahr where it received the National Catholic Theatre Award for 1971 and was published in an acting edition by Breakthrough Press under the aegis of Show Business critic Joyce Tretick. The play was recently re-created in a festival of East Village plays produced by Obie winner Peculiar Works Project. Of course some spectators were aghast when the character named Ellen West went down on all fours to play her favorite animal sex act with her therapist but not those who were familiar with Martin Esslen’s book Theater of the Absurd.

Marilyn Roberts, who always remained a good friend, was born in 1939 in San Francisco and in the course of her long career made several movies including Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Heaven is Waiting, The Image and Boxiganga, the latter a European experimental film from a play by the Danish theater artist Elsa Gress. She also appeared on many television shows including The Mary Tyler Moore Show. After starring in Why Tuesday Never Has a Blue Monday Marilyn was invited to join Tom O’Horgan’s La Mama Acting Troupe (which included Oscar winner Frederic Forrest, Mari-Claire Charba, Jacque Lynn Colton, Victor Lipari, and others) and was seen in plays by Adrienne Kennedy and as well in Rochelle Owens’ avant garde wild madcap play Futz, about a farmer in love with his pig. Playing Mrs. Soots, Marilyn was joined in the movie version by Sally Kirkland—Oscar nom for Anna—riding an enormous pink bristle covered sow barebacked, and naked. Marilyn lived for many years in the Village at Westbeth in a big space overlooking the Hudson River. A beautiful lady with blue eyes and golden locks Marilyn passed away in January, 2021 at the age of 82 and she will always be remembered by those who admired, loved and adored her. A true gift to the world.

Robert Heide’s plays including Blue Monday, Moon, The Bed, American Hamburger, Tropical Fever in Key West, Suburban Tremens and Crisis of Identity—the latter three starring the great award winning actress Regina David—are published in Robert Heide 25 Plays—Fast Books Press and available at Amazon.

NOTE: I recommended Marilyn Roberts for the prestigious Acker Award given periodically by Clayton Patterson, the ex officio ‘mayor’ of the East Village after having received one myself, as did my partner John Gilman. I also suggested La Mama Troupe actress Mari-Clair Charba, Caffe Cino historian Magie Dominic and Theater for the New City playwright Barbara Kahn for Acker Awards and all four women received them.

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