Dawdling theatregoers have only until Saturday, March 23, to catch Signature Theatre's evening of three Sam Shepard one-acts, featuring revivals of The Sad Lament Of Pecos Bill On The Eve Of Killing His Wife, Killer's Head and Action. The Shepard evening began previews Jan. 28, opened Feb. 9 and was supposed to run to March 9 but was extended to March 23, due to audience interest and generally good reviews.
Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company, which is devoting its entire 1996-97 season to Shepard's work, will have staged 13 previews and 43 regular performance of the one-act evening at the Public Theatre space. Pecos Bill was first staged at La MaMa in 1983, while Killer's Head and Action debuted at the American Place Theatre in 1975.
Killer's Head has made news because each week, a new star was brought in to perform the 20-minute monologue, (such as John Diehl, Jamie Sheridan and Stephen Lang). The final performances will feature movie star Ethan Hawke (film's Before Sunrise).
Signature is already gearing up for its next play of the season: a revival of Shepard's Curse Of The Starving Class, beginning previews April 15, opening April 27 and running to May 25. The 1978 dark comedy, set on a rundown farm, was widely produced on the regional theatre scene 1978 79 (Goodman (Chicago), Loretto-Hilton Rep (St. Louis), Arena Stage (DC)).
Starving Class tells of Weston and Ella Tate, and their children, Wesley and Emma, who fear their farm will be sold off to quick-buck artists and developers. The show premiered at the Public Theatre March 2, 1978. Appearing in this revival will be Kevin Carrigan, Joe Caruso, Jude Ciccolella, Gretchen Cleevely, Don Creech, Paul Dawson, Deborah Hedwall, Jack R. Marks and Clark Middleton. Designing the show will be E. David Cosier (sets), Teresa Snider-Stein (costumes), Jeffrey S. Koger (lighting) and Red Ramona (sound). Signature's founding artistic director, James Houghton, who previously staged Edward Albee's Fragments and Lee Blessing's Two Rooms, directs Class.
Pecos Bill, which offers music by Loren Toolajian, tells of the legendary cowboy who murdered his beloved wife, Slue-Foot Sue. In Killer's Head, a man strapped to an electric chair contemplates the mundane daily rituals of a life he'll never know. Action shows four people around a table drinking coffee, carving a Christmas turkey, hacking up a fish, dreaming, talking and waiting patiently for their lives to begin. Starring in Pecos Bill and Action are Debbon Ayer, Julie Christensen, John Diehl, Romain Fruge, Tanya Gingerich and Bruce MacVittie.
Darrell Larsen is directing all three Shepard pieces. He's staged such previous Shepard plays as The Unseen Hand and The Mad Dog Blues and as an actor created the role of Coyote in Murray Mednick's 7 play epic, The Coyote Cycle. Sets for the one-acts are by E. David Cosier, costumes by Teresa Snider-Stein, lighting by Jeffrey Koger and sound by Red Ramona.
The Signature season began with a double-bill of one-act plays, the New York premiere of When the World Was Green (A Chef's Fable) and 1965's Chicago, directed by longtime Shepard collaborator Joseph Chaikin. Though scheduled to close Dec. 1, the evening was extended to Dec. 15.
The following show, a disappointingly received co-production with the Second Stage Theatre, was a revised version of Tooth Of Crime, featuring a new score by T Bone Burnett.
An Evening Of Three One-Acts By Sam Shepard plays at the Susan Stein Shiva Theatre in the Joseph Papp Public Theatre complex in New York's Greenwich Village.
Full season explorations of a single author's work is the policy of Signature Theatre Company, which is concluding a full season devoted to the works of Adrienne Kennedy. The troupe attracted attention in 1994 and 1995 when the playwrights of those two seasons -- Edward Albee and Horton Foote, respectively -- won Pulitzer Prizes. Albee's winning Three Tall Women had been presented by another Off-Broadway company, but Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta had its premiere at Signature.
Like Albee, Shepard is a previous winner of the Pulitzer, for his Buried Child, which was revived, on Broadway, in April 1996, and nominated for a Best Play Tony Award.
Shepard's other plays include True West, Fool for Love (being revived in London this season), The Unseen Hand and A Lie of the Mind. His most recent play, Simpatico, was presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) in late 1994. Shepard, who began his career in 1960s off-off Broadway experimental theatre, has also pursued an on-again off-again career as an actor in films such as The Right Stuff.
Pending approval from Actors' Equity Association, the Signature season will continue its "interim" relationship as tenant of the Susan Stein Shiva Theatre in the Joseph Papp Public Theatre complex in Greenwich Village for the 1996-97 season.
For information and tickets ($25) to the Shepard one-acts, which play through March 23, call (212) 239 6200.