Fifth of July May Extend at Signature; New Sunday Perfs Added

News   Fifth of July May Extend at Signature; New Sunday Perfs Added Signature Theatre's new Off-Broadway revival of Fifth of July, Lanford Wilson's group character-study of a clutch of Midwestern friends and family members dealing with the fallout of the Vietnam era, which opened Feb. 3 to rave reviews, may extend past March 9. The extension is contingent on the actors' schedules, including that of Robert Sean Leonard, who is due to go into Long Day's Journey Into Night on Broadway this spring.
(L to R) Parker Posey, Sarah Lord, Jessalyn Gilsig and Robert Sean Leonard in Fifith of July
(L to R) Parker Posey, Sarah Lord, Jessalyn Gilsig and Robert Sean Leonard in Fifith of July (Photo by Rahav Segev/Photopass.com)

The show has added four extra Sunday performances: 8 PM Feb. 16, Feb. 23, March 2 and March 9.

Tony Award-winner Leonard (The Invention of Love) plays paraplegic Kenneth Talley Jr., 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.

Linked to Talley's Folly (the Broadway Pulitzer Prize-winner) and Talley and Son, Fifth of July is one of three plays in the Wilson trilogy about the Missouri-rooted Talley family.

Lovers John and Gwen have come to John's hometown of Lebanon, MO, to reunite with siblings June and Ken Talley. All four were anti-war, anti-establishment radicals in the 1960s. The reunion, after a decade of seeing that their fights came to nothing, is bittersweet. John's motive for his return is to address possible custody his and June's drama-queen daughter, the 13-year-old Shirley. Gwen, who went to Berkeley with the Missourians, comes to feel a sense of peace, and honor Aunt Sally (who was the focus of Talley's Folly), who is dealing with the loss of her husband, Matt (his ashes are in an empty box for chocolates). Ken has remained emotionally stuck (the metaphor is in his disability as well, an injury suffered in Vietnam), despite his happy partnership with a botanist, Jed. 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. A video version of the play with Thomas (and a young Cynthia Nixon as teen-aged Shirley was seen widely on PBS).

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. He commissioned two Wilson plays in the 1990s, both of which are being mounted in the current Signature season devoted to the work of Wilson.

Performances continue to March 9 at the Peter Norton Space, Signature's home at 555 W. 42nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Tickets are $55. For information, call (212) 244-PLAY or visit www.signaturetheatre.org.

Parker Posey and Robert Sean Leonard in <i>Fifith of July</i>
Parker Posey and Robert Sean Leonard in Fifith of July (Photo by Rahav Segev/Photopass.com)