Lolita is a play adapted by Edward Albee from Vladimir Nabokov's novel of the same name. The troubled production opened on Broadway on March 19, 1981 after 31 previews and closed after only 12 performances.
Frank Rich in his New York Times review wondered why the play even opened after "weeks of delays" as it was "the kind of embarrassment that audiences do not quickly forget or forgive." Rich said the least of its sins were incompetence, being boring, and trashing a literary masterpiece. "What sets Lolita apart from ordinary failures is its abject mean-spiritedness," he wrote. "For all this play's babbling about love, it is rank with indiscriminate – and decidedly unearned – hate."
Ten years earlier, John Barry and Alan Jay Lerner's musical Lolita, My Love was a bomb, closing during tryouts in Boston. (Albee's Lolita also played in Boston before its Broadway launch.) Critics had scored the play, saying that the lack of Nabokov's authorial voice made the musical salacious. Albee put Nabokov on stage in his play, but it did not help.
The cast included Donald Sutherland as Humbert Humbert, Clive Revill as Claire Quilty, Ian Richardson as Nabokov, and Blanche Baker in the title role. Baker was mentioned by Rich in only one line. "In the title role, here a minor figure, the 24-year-old Miss Baker does a clever job of impersonating the downy nymphet; she deserves a more substantial stage vehicle soon."