You mean these songs were once Sondheim discards?

Lolita, Starring Donald Sutherland. Play by Edward Albee. Adapted from the novel by Vladimir Nabakov. Directed by Frank Dunlop. As the latest exhibit in a season of accumulating disasters, "Lolita" demonstrates that spurious controversy cannot rescue a meretricious entertainment.

The Edward Albee play, which closes at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on Saturday, was adapted -- with interpolations -- from the 1955 Vladimir Nabokov novel which became notorious but which was acclaimed by serious critics as a genuine literary achievement. Mr. Albee has retained the central situation: the perverted and reckless obsession of a middle-aged European emigre intellectual (Donald Sutherland) with an American sub-teenager (Blanche Baker).

But the subtleties and insights of the original have been eliminated in favor of a smirky, vulgarly explicit sex comedy in which Nabokov's theme is trivialized and his characters reduced to crude caricatures.

A writer of genuine stature and accomplishment, Mr. Albee has been going through what one can only hope is a temporary decline. The theater needs the gifts on which his reputation was built. After "Lolita," there would seem to be only one dir ection for him to go.

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