Hawke to Gather Shepard's Moss at OB's Signature, Sept. 4

News   Hawke to Gather Shepard's Moss at OB's Signature, Sept. 4 Ethan Hawke, Arliss Howard and Sheila Tousey have been cast in the upcoming New York production of Sam Shepard's latest, The Late Henry Moss. A Signature Theatre Company box office spokesperson (reached June 29) confirmed a New York Times report of the casting, adding that further casting for secondary roles is still underway.

Ethan Hawke, Arliss Howard and Sheila Tousey have been cast in the upcoming New York production of Sam Shepard's latest, The Late Henry Moss. A Signature Theatre Company box office spokesperson (reached June 29) confirmed a New York Times report of the casting, adding that further casting for secondary roles is still underway.

Hawke will play Ray in the play, a role essayed by Sean Penn in the show's West Coast premiere. Previews begin Sept. 4 for a (tentative) Sept. 16 opening. The play's recent, sold-out-before-it-opened CA premiere boasted such notables in the cast as filmdom's Penn, Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson. Occasional Shepard collaborator Joseph Chaikin will direct.

Set in the Shepardian version of the American West, Henry Moss pits two brothers, Earl and Ray (originally, Nolte and Penn), against the memory of their father Henry, whose family secrets and death are revealed in mysterious ways. Spicing up the comic mix are a neighbor who spends his time making the Mexican tripe-and-chili soup, called Menudo, and a talkative cab driver, and a rhumba-dancing girlfriend (Tousey).

The Late Henry Moss opened at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square Nov. 14, 2000. The production, sold out before a single performance played, began Nov. 7 for a run through Dec. 17.

Also promised for the Signature Theatre's 2001-02 season, according to a spokesperson at The Publicity Office, are the world premieres of Edward Albee's I Think Back Now on André Gide and John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals. Promotional materials for the theatre note that Albee's play is "one of his most `experimental' to date," while Guare's tells of a penniless man whose son squandered his fortune. He's offered a new fortune by a publishing company for his memoirs, but will he hang on long enough to write and remember?

Going back to its one-season-per-playwright modus operandi, the Signature Theatre Company will dedicate its 2002-03 season to Lanford Wilson.

Wilson's work began being produced in New York in 1963, at places like Caffe Cino and La MaMa, where he and Sam Shephard (a Signature playwright of several seasons back) were contemporaries. 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 "Talley Trilogy," 5th of July and Talley's Folly. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize.

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. Many of Wilson's most recent efforts — including The Rain Dance, Book of Days and A Sense of Place, or Virgil Is Still the Frog Boy — haven't been seen in New York, debuting instead at such places as the Bay Street Theatre in Long Island and the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI.

Wilson said Book of Days and Rain Dance were possibilities for the Signature season.

—By David Lefkowitz
Robert Simonson and Christine Ehren