Paul Bartel, the character actor and filmmaker whose 1982 picture, "Eating Raoul," became a 1992 musical of the same title, died May 13 in his Manhattan home several weeks after cancer surgery, according to The New York Times.
Mr. Bartel was 61 and had nurtured an interest in theatre and film since his childhood. He directed and sometimes wrote and performed in a number of independent pictures, including "Cannonball," "Not for Publication," "Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" and "Lust in the Dust." As an actor, he most recently played Osric in Michael Almereyda's film, "Hamlet," with Ethan Hawke.
He was frequently seen at play openings and at such theatre festivals as the Humana Festival of New American Plays, where he was presumably scoping out new properties.
"Eating Raoul," his best-known movie, concerned a conservative couple named Paul and Mary Bland (played by Mr. Bartel and Mary Woronov), who lured sex-crazed swingers (of whom they did not approve) to their apartment and murdered them. For the stage version, which played briefly Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre, Mr. Bartel wrote the libretto and Boyd Graham and Jed Feuer (of The Big Bang) wrote the songs.
"We were slaughtered by the New York critics and we have never really figured out why," Mr. Bartel told Playbill On-Line in a previous interview. "Audience reaction was so strong." The stage version was said to be less dark than the film, which Mr. Bartel said was inevitable given the sensibilities of musical theatre. The musical took eight years to develop. Mr. Bartel and the creative team went through numerous producers and directors who, he said, demanded changes he and his associates weren't prepared to make. What Mr. Bartel and company did change, readily, was the time frame: from the early 1980s of the movie to the mid-1960s, to avoid the AIDS-era and to underscore the swinger craze.
Mr. Bartel said he didn't direct the stage version because his world was film, and the musical "needed a whole new imagination. I wanted to put my talents, such as they are, at the disposal of someone else's vision. The show required a different approach." Toni Kotite helmed the New York premiere.
"In retrospect I wish I had thrown my weight around more," Mr. Bartel said. "We made a terrible mistake committing to lots of physical scenery in New York." That production, he said, "lumbered" and didn't reflect the nature of the musical, which was frolicking.
"We tied the show down," he said. "I wish we had kept it in the storefront theatre in which it had originally workshopped."
Mr. Bartel noted that the musical drew raves in a subsequent Los Angeles production because it was done intimately.
It has since had other regional productions, including a 1998 run at Houston's Theatre LaB.
According to The New York Times, Mr. Bartel was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan and Montclair, NJ. He studied theatre and film at UCLA.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Peter Szatmary