Steambath is the second play by American author Bruce Jay Friedman. It was first performed Off-Broadway at the Truck and Warehouse Theater where it opened on June 30, 1970, closing on October 18, 1970 after 128 performances.
This play presents the afterlife as a steam bath, in which recently deceased souls (who may not in every case realize that they are dead) continue to obsess about the same petty concerns that obsessed them in their lives. Ultimately, they are cast into another room offstage which is represented by a dark void by God, the steambath's Puerto Rican attendant, and with the help of his assistant Gottlieb. In the play, the new arrival Tandy at first refuses to accept what's happened, and when he finally does, he pleads to be allowed to return to his life. Steambath was controversial when first produced for its obscene language (which was softened for its television version), its satirical take on religion, and some brief nudity.
Friedman claims to have been inspired to write the play in part because of a "bad experience with the food at a Chinese restaurant" that had him contemplating mortality.
Anthony Perkins directed the original production which starred Perkins as Tandy, Hector Elizondo as the Attendant (God), Marvin Lichterman as Bieberman, Annie Rachel as Meredith, Conrad Bain as Old Timer, Mitchell Jason as Broker, Jere Admire as Young Man, Teno Pollick as 2nd Young Man, Eileen Dietz as Young Girl, Alfred Hinckley as Flanders, Gabor Morea as Gottlieb, Jack Knight as Longshoreman, and William Walsh as 2nd Longshoreman. Miguel Piñero would later play God. Elizondo won an Obie Award for his performance.
Initially Charles Grodin was cast in the role of Tandy, but was replaced by Perkins. Coincidentally, Grodin soon landed his breakthrough role as a comedy actor in the film The Heartbreak Kid, based on a short story by Steambath author Friedman.
Steambath became a series on the cable network Showtime in 1983 starring Robert Picardo in the Tandy role, Janis Ward as Meredith, Al Ruscio as DaVinci, Rita Taggart as Blanche and Allen Williams as Gottlieb. José Pérez reprised his role as God, who now also had a name, "Morty." (A pilot was produced and aired, later followed by five additional episodes.)
In Fame, Ralph performs an excerpt from Steambath as part of his audition for the High School of Performing Arts. We do not see the audition itself, only Ralph's introduction: "I'm God, see? And God is Puerto Rican, you got that? Now, God works in a casa de steam, you know. It's a steam bath, right? . . . I'm God, see? That's why I'm standing on this chair, you got that? Good."
- Barnes, Clive (July 1, 1970). "Theater: Anthony Perkins Directs 'Steambath'; Friedman Casts Deity as a Bath Attendant". New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2009.
- Friedman, Josh Alan (September 23, 2009). "Steambath". Black Cracker Online. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
- Fame (1980), retrieved 2018-12-16
- Interview with Bruce Jay Friedman by Derek Alger, PIF magazine
- Steambath A reminiscence by Josh Alan Friedman, Black Cracker Online