Tony Award-winner Leonard (The Invention of Love) plays paraplegic Ken, and is joined by Parker Posey (Gwen), Jessalyn Gilsig (June), Michael Gladis (Jed), David Harbour (John), Sarah Lord (Shirley), Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Weston) and Pamela Payton-Wright (Sally).
The revival, staged by Jo Bonney, replaces Talley's Folly on the Signature season of works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilson. Opening for the limited run is Feb. 3. Linked to Talley's Folly and Talley and Son, Fifth of July is one of three plays in the Wilson trilogy about the Missouri-rooted Talley family.
The Signature describes the play this way: "On a hot Independence Day in the late 70s, a widow puts her husband's ashes in the fridge for safekeeping, a handsome botanist rediscovers a long-lost variety of rose, and a young girl dreams of being Betty Grable and Marie Curie. Fifth of July chronicles the two-day reunion of a group of '60s radicals in their small hometown of Lebanon, MO. These friends and lovers confront the consequences of their past choices and try to reconcile the disappointments of lost dreams with renewed hope for the future."
The play — by turns funny and rueful — was first produced by Off-Broadway's Circle Repertory Company on April 27, 1978. The Circle Rep production ran for 168 performances with a cast that included William Hurt, Jonathan Hogan, Joyce Rheeling, Amy Wright, Danton Stone, Nancy Snyder, Jeff Daniels and Helen Stenborg. Marshall W. Mason directed. When the play was remounted in 1980 at Broadway's New Apollo Theatre, Christopher Reeve, and later Richard Thomas, headlined as Kenneth Talley, Jr., a paraplegic Vietnam vet who reunites with old former '60s radical pals who made varying choices in wartime.
Swoosie Kurtz was part of the 1980 company and won a Best Supporting Actress Tony Award (Mason and Wilson were also among Tony nominees). Jeff Daniels won the Drama Desk Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Jed Jenkins, and would go on to Hollywood fame. In 1991, he founded a professional theatre, the Purple Rose Theatre Company, in his home state of Michigan. His model for the troupe, he told Playbill On Line, is Circle Rep. Performances continue to March 9 at the Peter Norton Space, Signature's home on West 42nd Street.
Director Jo Bonney most recently directed the premiere of Eric Bogosian's Humpty Dumpty at The McCarter Theatre. Other recent work includes Jessica Goldberg's Good Thing at The New Group, Slanguage by Universes at New York Theatre Workshop, Jose Rivera's References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot and the premiere of Diana Son's Stop Kiss, both at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, and Look Back in Anger at Classic Stage Company.
Leonard won a 2001 Tony Award for his portrayal of young A. E. Houseman in Stoppard The Invention of Love and is set to star in a Broadway revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night in spring 2003.
Posey appeared in Broadway's Taller Than a Dwarf and the Los Angeles premiere of Four Dogs and a Bone and is remembered for her comic turn in the film mockumentary, "Waiting for Guffman."
Signature Theatre's Peter Norton Space is at 555 W. 42nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Tickets are $55. For information, call (212) 244-PLAY or visit www.signaturetheatre.org.
Signature Theatre Company will conclude its Lanford Wilson season with the New York premiere of Rain Dance, April 15-June 8, directed by Guy Sanville, the artistic director of Michigan's Purple Rose, the Jeff Daniels-founded troupe which commissioned the play (as well as Books of Days).
Wilson is known for his lyric realism in such plays as THE HOT L BALTIMORE, The Rimers of Eldritch, Lemon Sky, Serenading Louie, Talley's Folly, Balm in Gilead, Angels Fall and Burn This.