In the immediate post-Stonewall years, there were markedly few gay-themed books available, like John Rechy's City of Night, Gordon Merrick's The Lord Won't Mind, Andrew Tobias' The Best Little Boy in the World, and James Kirkwood's P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. Kirkwood, who went on to write A Chorus Line, was the child of silent film pioneers, actor-director James Kirkwood and actress Lila Lee. Kirkwood (1924-1989) also adapted the book for Broadway, where it ran in 1975, with Keir Dullea and Tony Musante.

P.S. has finally reached the screen in an adaptation directed by and starring Steve Guttenberg as Jimmy Zoole, a hapless actor who spends New Year's Eve alone, save for a bound and trussed gay burglar, Eddie (Lombardo Boyar), he has caught ripping him off for the third time. The two play a sexually charged, cat-and-mouse game with each other, interrupted by Jimmy's horrified ex-girlfriend (Cynthia Watros) and his gay buddy Carmine (A.J. Benza) and his gang, who enter with no good (i.e., rape) on their minds.

Guttenberg, a no-doubt weary veteran of more Hollywood commercial crap than you could shake a stick at (the Police Academys, Can't Stop the Music, Short Circuit), obviously meant this as a major stretch, and does his best acting work since his breakthrough in Diner. Rumpled and sweaty throughout, he aptly conveys Jimmy's beleaguered desperation and manic glee at having finally found someone he can torture for a change. His direction of the piece is adequate, if rather confined to the play's one-set demands and somewhat hackneyed what-fresh-hell-is-this premise. He and the convincingly sleazy Boyar have a crackling, suggestive chemistry which serves Kirkwood's writing well. (Their final, grudging reconciliation, as the sun rises over Los Angeles, has a scruffy poignancy.) And, early on, he and Watros have a blistering lover's breakup argument that sends off sparks and has the bitter ring of truth.

In one of the most mystifying casting decisions since Anthony Perkins played baseball player Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out, macho former gossip columnist Benza, hideously bewigged and made up, plays the horny, flamboyant Carmine. (He's nothing if not game, however, as he sniffs his finger after prodding Eddie's exposed butt.) Shirley Knight (who's come a long way from playing "Heavenly Finley" in Sweet Bird of Youth), makes the most of her one scene as Jimmy's selfish, rich aunt.

--David Noh