Ira Lewis, Actor and Playwright, Dies at 82
By Daniel E. Slotnik New York Times 4/16/2015
Ira Lewis, an actor turned playwright whose comedies, often with star-studded casts, skewered the neuroses and pretensions of writers and artists, died on April 4 in Edison, N.J. He was 82. The cause was complications following open-heart surgery, Cheryl Hartley, a friend, said.
Mr. Lewis’s greatest success was “Chinese Coffee,” a one-act play in which a novelist and a photographer, both down and out, argue about the novelist’s manuscript. Al Pacino was cast as the writer when the play had its premiere at the Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway in 1992.
Mr. Pacino reprised the role the next year, with Ben Gazzara as the photographer, at the Stamford Center for the Arts in Connecticut. He also directed a film adaptation in 2000, in which he starred with Jerry Orbach. Mr. Lewis wrote the screenplay.
In a statement, Mr. Pacino said of Mr. Lewis, “In ‘Chinese Coffee,’ he expressed the pathos, the injustice and the humanity of our world in the microcosm of these two bottomed-out artists.”
Another Lewis play, “Gross Points,” is about a movie star who is always proclaiming his preference for the stage; Alec Baldwin starred in a 2001 production at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Ira Lewis Metsky was born in Newark on Aug. 27, 1933. He studied acting and made his Broadway debut in Arthur Miller’s “Incident at Vichy” in 1964, directed by Harold Clurman. The next year, Mr. Lewis toured with a production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” directed by Clurman.
Mr. Lewis’s first produced play was “The Sponsor,” staged at the Theater at St. Clement’s in Manhattan in 1977. A later play, “Pearlfield,” is based on the last months of Clurman’s life.
In 1996 Mr. Lewis appeared with Mr. Pacino, Mr. Baldwin, Kevin Spacey and others in Mr. Pacino’s directorial debut, “Looking for Richard,” a documentary film about Shakespeare’s “Richard III.”
Mr. Lewis, who lived in Westfield, N.J., is survived by two brothers, Marvin and Seymour.
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