The inhabitants of Dublin, MO, the setting of Lanford Wilson's seriocomic play, Book of Days, making its New York debut this fall, will include Alan Campbell, Miriam Shor, Tuck Milligan and Wilson vet Jonathan Hogan, a spokesperson confirmed.
Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company will stage the play, beginning Oct. 15. The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, MI, the tiny company founded by the actor (and Wilson veteran) Jeff Daniels, commissioned Book of Days and staged the 1998 world premiere. After divided reviews in Michigan papers, the script was named Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association in 1999. The play was later seen at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Hartford Stage.
The play concerns Ruth (Miriam Shor), a community theatre actress cast in a local staging of Shaw's St. Joan, who gets involved with a local mystery: The owner of the local cheese factory has disappeared. She also locks horns with a local preacher (to be played by Michigan's John Lepard). Milligan plays the local sheriff. Ruth's mother is a flinty, outspoken onetime hippie, Martha Hoch (Susan Kellerman), who swears, chain smokes and teaches at the local Christian college in the small-town Missouri setting.
Longtime Wilson collaborator Marshall Mason will direct the New York premiere, the company of which also includes Matthew Rauch, Kelly McAndrew, Jim Haynie, Nancy Snyder, Hope Chernov and Boris McGiver. Actor Jonathan Hogan is remembered for his performances in Wilson's Burn This on Broadway and 5th of July. Alan Campbell is a vet of Sunset Blvd. and Contact.
Book was commissioned by the Purple Rose and then played the Repertory of St. Louis and Hartford Stage. There were hopes of a New York commercial transfer, but that did not transpire. Wilson is the playwright of focus in of the 2002-03 Signature season. Currently at the Union Square Theatre, Signature is presenting a revival of Burn This. The season also includes Talley's Folly and the New York premiere of 2001's Rain Dance.
Wilson's work began being produced in New York in 1963, at places like Caffe Cino and La MaMa. Early plays included Rimers of Eldritch and Balm in Gilead, which Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company revived to great acclaim in the early '80s. Wilson's fortunes rose with the '70s, a time which saw the success of such works as Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore and the first two part of his Missouri-set "Talley Trilogy," 5th of July and Talley's Folly. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize. There was also Talley and Son.
Many of these works were presented at Circle Repertory Company, a landmark Off-Broadway troupe Wilson co founded.
The last decade, however, has seen a slow falling off in Wilson's commercial and critical stock. The last play of his to reach Broadway was 1993's Redwood Curtain, which quickly closed to great financial loss and by some accounts helped speed the subsequent demise of Circle Rep.
For Signature Theatre information, visit www.signaturetheatre.org.
The current limited run Signature staging of Wilson's Burn This features Ed Norton and Catherine Keener, Dallas Roberts and Ty Burrell, at the Union Square Theatre. Performances began Aug. 27 and continue to Nov. 3.
— By Kenneth Jones