l. to r. standing: Jimmy Hornbeck, Tom Bower, Roger Reid. Gary Lee, William Utay, John Anderson; bottom l to r Laura Zucker, Ilene Kristen, Bobby Lesser.
The Back Alley’s second production, RUBBERS & YANKS 3, DETROIT 0, were two prescient one-acts by Jonathan Reynolds. In 1974 the NY legislature shot down a bill to allow for the open display of contraceptives in shops. RUBBERS, which satirized the divisive politics we’re still living through on reproductive issues, was first produced at the American Place Theatre in NYC and directed by Alan Arkin. In 1980 I directed the west coast premiere. Jessica Rains “reigned brilliantly” over the wild cast of politico characters that included Jimmy Hornbeck, Ilene Kristen, William Utay and Robert Lesser. I still laugh when I think of Bobby’s performances. We were lucky to get him as he had originated the roles in the NY production and had just moved to LA.
Set entirely on the pitcher’s mound at the top of the seventh inning in Yankee Stadium, YANKS 3, DETROIT 0 is a tour de force for the pitcher who’s going through an identity crisis as he’s slowly, inextricably losing the game. Tom Bower, who thought he’d have a career as an athlete and then pivoted to acting, was called by one reviewer “an actor to watch in the future.” Understatement– he’s been one of the busiest character actors of the past four decades with more than 160 TV and film credits and 80 plays. Tom founded three theatre companies, including the MET, and is still going strong.
Allan produced, and I used the term loosely. He was supposed to play the pitcher and really wanted to, but got booked for three episodes on the Galactica 1980 series. He needed the job for us and to pay for the production, so he more than earned his credit. The number of actors who’ve plowed their professional incomes back into LA theatre is too numerous to tally, but that’s a screed for another post.
Reynolds, who started out writing for Dick Cavett and David Frost, and died in 2021 at 79, wryly observed in a letter to me, “it’s interesting to look back and see how the critics disagreed about which was the better play—they all felt they had to choose one, and for some reason they mostly used the adverb ‘easily’ to describe which was better.” I loved them both.