In an abrupt turnabout, Off-Broadway's critically acclaimed satire, Stonewall Jackson's House, will not be extended through the summer, as previously announced. Sales have not been as strong as anticipated, so the show will end at the American Place Theatre on West 46th St., June 15. (If audiences come in droves, however, the closing notice would likely be pushed back.)
Jonathan Reynolds' play, which opened Feb. 16, has been in a virtual open run and will reach 120 regular performances and 13 previews by its close.
In other Stonewall news, original star Lisa Louise Langford won an Encore magazine "Taking Off" Award for her performance in the show. On March 26, Starla Benford took over for Langford as the African-American docent guiding tourists through Stonewall Jackson's abode. Benford and Langford were classmates together at Harvard, and Benford also studied at ART's Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. She also appeared in Denial at the Long Wharf. Langford left due to "prior commitments."
Stonewall Jackson's House, "an incendiary new comedy about a young woman who violates the ultimate racial taboo," began previews Feb. 5 and was initially scheduled to run through April 9. The piece was developed by artistic director Wynn Handman and television producer Norman Lear. Reynolds' previous works, Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top Of The Seventh and Rubbers, both opened at the American Place in 1975. His other plays include Tunnel Fever or The Sheep Is Out and Geniuses. Stonewall is the first full production of the Lear/Handman program "Humor Hatchery," which provided $75,000 seed money to search for plays "that cut into the fabric of American life."
One interesting historical sidenote: On March 1, Henry F. Schaffner attended a performance of Stonewall Jackson's House. Schaffner is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Stonewall Jackson. According to playwright Reynolds, Schaffner wore a "Stonewall Jackson" baseball cap and brought with him extensive background material for the theatre to use. Reynolds later said that Schaffner's "piercing blue eyes made him think he was looking right into the eyes of the title character." Appearing with Benford in Stonewall Jackson's House are Mimi Bensinger, Ron Faber, Katherine Leask and R.E. Rodgers. Designers include Henry S. Dunn (set), Chad McArver (lighting), Kurt Kellenberger (sound) and Barbara A. Bell (costumes).
Originally supposed to finish the American Place season, Nobody Says Baby Like A Black Man, compiled by Lindsay Patterson and adapted/directed by Hope Clarke, has been indefinitely postponed (as was another play, Fly).
For tickets ($35) and information on Stonewall Jackson's House, call (212) 840-3074.
--By David Lefkowitz