How they like their men



Ida, a nurse in a Los Angeles hospital ward for severely ill children, likes passive men as bedmates.

Monnie, her best friend, a top-flight court stenographer in Los Angeles, shares Ida’s tastes in almost everything except men: she likes them rough, aggressive, dominant.

Terrence, Ida’s current “little kitty, little cuddle-bone,” is a helpless, hapless, inarticulate, mentally challenged young man she picked up in a bookstore in the rain. He has a mental age of 11, an emotional age of 16. Actually he’s 27.

Kent, Terrence’s twin brother, raised in England, shows up out of nowhere and not long later ravishes Monnie in the bathroom shower, just the way she likes it. He’s her type, brash as blazes. Just by eye, you can’t tell Terrence and Kent apart.

Put these four people together and you have “The Identical Same Temptation,” a teasing, jolting comedy by Robert Glaudini that, if all goes well, will be at Theater for the New City, First Avenue and 10th Street, Sept. 18 through October 19.

You also have Rebecka Ray as Ida, Roberta Wallach as Monnie, Sidney Williams as Terrence, and Sidney Williams again as Kent.

The “if all goes well” means that these three actors and author-director Glaudini — as their own producers — need to raise the go-ahead money by opening night.

“And what we’ve learned,” said Roberta Wallach the other day, “is that it’s easier to raise $1.5 million than $30,000. One thing you can write is that we got a contribution from Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller.”

“So do I have to sleep with them?” asked Rebecka Ray, unseriously. “Or do any of us? Or all three of us, given the nature of this play?”

The fact is that Ms. Wallach, a daughter of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, more or less grew up with Amy and Ben Stiller, the kids down the block on Riverside Drive, and has in fact played a daughter-in-law in Anne Meara’s “Down the Garden Paths.”

All right, folks, let’s get down to business.

Ms. Ray, how do you feel about passive men?

“Umm . . . good question. I guess I’m not into either passive or dominant men particularly. But I understand why Ida [the woman she portrays] would be attracted to passive men, because you can’t have two Idas” — i.e., two domineering types — “in one relationship.”

And you, Ms. Wallach? How do you feel about aggressive men?

“Are you asking this of me personally or of my character [Monnie]?”

Both, if you please.

“I absolutely prefer alpha men,” the actress said. “But I’ve also been attracted to seemingly passive types. I think one of the things Bob Glaudini is saying is that in extremes, one becomes the other. So I guess I’m attracted to extremes.”

One step farther:

“A lot of the downside of the women’s movement, for me, is how it has created this huge discrepancy between male and female. Whereas in me,” says the forthright Roberta Wallach, “there is something of the feminine, the geisha.”

Sid Williams had said nothing through all of this. Now he said:

“There are college graduates who still have the 7th-grade fantasy of an older woman taking you sexually.” Next breath: “When I was in the 7th grade there was a friend of my mother’s I fantasized about.”

Where was this, Mr. Williams?

“Well, Wilmington, Delaware. So that explains a lot. Also, you know, when you’re half asleep and have fantasies of a woman initiating sex . . . So I think Bob Glaudini’s in touch . . . But I tell you, when I go out and around, there’s nothing more boring to me than a room full of alpha males . . . “

“Growing up as I did in Israel . . . ,” Rebecka Ray started to say.

“Oh, Christ,” said Williams.

“The men are very macho,” said Ms. Ray.

“The whole freakin’ region,” said Williams.

What had brought these three actors and playwright Glaudini together was a chain reaction of circumstances.

“Bob and I met at Bennington in 1973,” said Roberta Wallach. “I was a student, he was a teacher in the drama department. Also Deborah Teller, our stage manager, went to Bennington. Bob’s, I guess I have to say wife, Kelly Stuart, is a very good playwright herself, and teaches at Columbia. When I lived in Los Angeles I did several o Kelly’s plays, and Bob directed one of them. We stayed in touch.

“Sid and I knew each other from the Actors Studio. We worked there on a piece he was writing on Dylan Thomas. Another play of Bob’s is ‘Dutch Heart of Man,’ which is to open as a LAByrinth Theater production at the Public Theater later in September. Rebecka was in a reading for that a year ago.”

Glaudini had called Ms. Ray the day after the “Dutch” reading and asked her to participate in a reading of “The Identical Same Temptation.”

Meanwhile Kelly Stuart called Roberta Wallach.

“She said: ‘Bob has written this terrific play about two women, one of whom is into passive men, the other into aggressive men. One is a nurse, the other is a court stenographer.

“Kelly and I both thought the nurse was the one I was up for. I usually get cast as the Bette Davis ballsy one,” said Ms. Wallach.”

“I actually also,” Ms. Ray interjected.

“We’re twins, psychic twins,” said Ms. Wallach, stealing a line from the play.

“And I usually get cast as nurses,” said Ms. Ray. “I have a commercial right now as a nurse. I already have a nurse’s uniform.”

“And then,” Sid Williams piped up, “Roberta called me and — “

“And,” said Ms. Wallach, “I told him: ‘Sid, get over here. It’s between you and Seymour Philip Hoffman, but I’d rather you did it.’ “

“I think,” said Sid Williams, “they just wanted to have me and Bob [Glaudini] in the same room. Anyway, we all met at Roberta’s apartment. That was May 2002. The first reading was at the Actors Studio in June 2002.”

There have been five other readings since, at various locales. But the first reading of the first draft had been out in California three years earlier, as part of the Mark Taper New Works Festival.

“Everyone found it so funny,” says playwright Glaudini, who himself had just been found by the press — this press — downing a dish of mussels at Fortuna, otherwise known as The Tomato, a LAByrinth hangout and restaurant on St. Mark’s Place co-owned by Salvatore Inzerillo, the very large actor who is to play the lead character, a lonesome, womanless terrazo-grinder, in Glaudini’s “Dutch Heart of Man.”

Glaudini gazed out into space over his mussels, in the general direction of Avenue A, when asked how the characters of “The Identical Same Temptation” had come into his head. He thought a long time. Finally he said:

“Probably it came out of what was personal — my total confusion over the answer to questions I was getting from women . . . Things I’ve observed in my friends as to how they’ve responded to women. Specifically, the total bewilderment about who’s attracted to whom. Why do certain people desire a specific type of person?

Or as Papa Freud put it: “What does a woman want?”

“The writing,” Glaudini said, “just started coming out of me. Nor schematically or pre-planned or anything like that. These two women, with their predatory sense of knowing what they wanted sexually — and it was just clear to them . . . “

But not to the playwright, until the words came out and he wrote them down.

Sid Williams does twice as much work as anyone else in the show, you might say, because he plays two characters — sort of.

“There’s a play of Pinter’s called ‘The Lover’ in which a stodgy upper-middle-class type rushes home every afternoon at 3 to make love in disguise to his own wife. I’ve worked on that,” said Williams. “But the husband’s struggle there is external. ‘I just can’t do this any more. I’m too exhausted.’ In Bob’s play the struggle is internal.”

Yes, and there was also a famous earlier drama, Ferenc Molnar’s “The Guardsman,” a 1911 comedy (later a stage and film vehicle for Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne) about a pompous actor who makes love to his own wife disguised as her no less pompous uniformed lover. Does she know or does she not?

Whereas here, the two women, Ida and Monnie, know everything . . . except the one flabbergasting thing they do not know.

Williams is grateful to the Actors Studio for giving him and Roberta Wallach a place to really work on a role; to Al Pacino (in whose “Oedipus” he got to say things like “Good King, where has Jocasta gone?”) for showing how to really explore a play, a line, a character; and to Crystal Field for inviting the “Identical Same Temptation” actors and their playwright/director to do 10 minutes of it at TNC in the Lower East Side Festival — and, subsequently, all of it.

“That’s why we’re here now.” And with God’s grace, will preview their show Sept. 18 for the opening on Sept. 20. Passive, dominant, or otherwise.