MANHATTAN (CN) – Theater critic John Lahr claims actress and singer Elaine Stritch cheated him of profits from her one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch At Liberty,” which he co-wrote. Lahr, senior drama critic at The New Yorker magazine, shared a Tony Award with Stritch for the work.
Lahr alleges breach of contract in New York County Court.
The show, described as a summation of Stritch’s life and career, began at New York’s Public Theatre in 2001 and ran on Broadway the next year.
Lahr claims they entered into an agreement that would pay him “Net Rights Income,” which would be split equally. The agreement required Stritch to send to his agent a copy of any contract she signed that involved “Subsidiary Rights.” As part of the deal, Lahr assigned his rights, title and interest in the show to Stritch.
“In the past, Stritch has contracted to perform the work, been paid to perform the work, and then claimed that there was not any Net Right Income generated,” the complaint states.
Lahr claims his former writing partner used a loophole to duck payments.
“Stritch has negligently and willfully sought to evade an obligation to pay Net Rights Income by not generating Net Rights Income, and at the same time allegedly generating other income or payment that she classifies as not being included in the agreement’s definition of Net Rights Income,” according to the complaint.
Lahr also alleges breach of fiduciary duty. He seeks declaratory judgment that would pay him no less than 20 percent of the gross amount Stritch earns for a performance of the show. He is represented by Carl Koerner with White and Williams.
Lahr and Stritch shared a Drama Desk Award for Best Book to a Musical for the work.
“At Liberty is in a class by itself, a biting, hilarious and even touching tour-de-force tour of Stritch’s career and life,” Newsweek said in a review.
Lahr is a two-time winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism.
When “At Liberty” moved to Broadway from the Public Theatre, the credits stated, “Constructed by John Lahr. Reconstructed by Elaine Stritch.”
“The reconstruction means I had the last say,” Stritch said in a 2002 interview. “Damn right I did.”
Lahr is the author of several books, including a biography of his father, Bert Lahr, called “Notes on a Cowardly Lion.” Bert Lahr played the lion in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”