Neal Weaver – Stage Raw
We don’t think of Mae West as a literary figure, but she wrote three plays — Sex, The Drag, and Pleasure Man. All were produced on Broadway, and all were closed by the police on grounds of obscenity. This seems hard to fathom, since nowadays they seem no more obscene (or even risqué) than TV’s genteel Hallmark murder mysteries. But West was always a specialist in scandal, with a genius for the suggestive.
Rob Stevens – Haines His Way
Before she became one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars of the 1930s, the iconic Mae West was a playwright and a Broadway star. In April, 1926 she opened her newest play, Sex, at Daly’s 63rd Street Theatre. The reviewers savaged the show, calling it “crude” and “vulgar,” mostly for its morality or perceived immorality. The main character was a prostitute as were several other female roles, another character was a murderer and blackmailer, a third was a society woman looking for some cheap kicks and getting drugged and robbed for her effort. Not typical fare for 1926 theatregoers yet they packed the place for 375 performances before police raided the show in February, 1927. West and her cast were charged with obscenity after having been seen by over 325,000 people. West was fined $500 and sentenced to 10 days in a workhouse but achieved national notoriety as a result. By 1933 she was a movie star and saved Paramount Studios from bankruptcy with her films. Buzzworks Theater Company is currently reviving Sex on the Hudson Theatre Mainstage. It’s surprising to hear this 92 year old play still get the laughs it deserves. For the most part, West’s script is still vibrant.
Now running through June 17