Citing a poor review in the San Francisco Chronicle, the producers of A Certain Labor Day hurried to close the show early, even though the play was supposed to run through Oct. 26. A press release was even sent out giving the closing date as Sept. 28.
But not so fast. The show's author and star, Carroll O'Connor, is a major television notable, and there are hopes the show can still build. That's why the show will continue to run on a week-by-week basis. According to spokesperson Carla Befera, the current run at the Theatre On The Square on Post St. is scheduled to "at least Oct. 5." A Certain Labor Day, directed by Beth Milles, opened Sept. 24.
As for O'Connor's previous credits, the five-time Emmy Award winner has basked "In The Heat Of The Night," tended "Archie Bunker's Place," and kept it "All In The Family." On Broadway, he's also been his Brothers' keeper.
A member of Dublin's Gate Theatre in the early 1950s, O'Connor hit New York in 1958 with Burgess Meredith's staging of Ulysses In Nighttown. O'Connor also starred in Los Angeles productions of Heartbreak House, Candide and 1975's The Little Foxes at the Westwood Playhouse. He starred in the 1984 drama, Homefront, and wrote the 1964s comedy, Ladies Of Hanover Tower, produced then by the Theatre Group of Los Angeles.
Featuring a retired labor leader, Gerry Maher, as its main character, A Certain Labor Day looks at the demise of the left wing in American politics and society. "There was an ideal of a social system that let us all be wholly caring of each other," O'Connor said in a statement. "It was extinguished by the return of conservatism, but not before it had been employed to forge definitive societal changes. The organizers...who wrought the changes, when now and then remembered by later generations, are repudiated as un-American radicals, even while the nation...relies heavily on their successes." Also starring in Labor Day are Eugene Roche, veteran actress Mariclare Costello and Allan Arbus, best known for playing psychiatrist Sidney Friedman on TV's "M*A*S*H." Costello appeared in 1969's A Patriot For Me; Roche appeared opposite Olympia Dukakis in Off Broadway's Father Uxbridge Wants To Marry in 1968.
Supporting roles will be played by Tony Carlin (The Heidi Chronicles, Neill Barry (Almost An Eagle), Liam Gannon (veteran of the Gate Theatre) Sullivan Walker and Jennifer Stander (daughter of Lionel Stander, making her stage debut).
O'Connor remains a familiar presence on television screens, not just because "In The Heat Of The Night" and "All In The Family" are widely syndicated, but because he recently defended himself in a lawsuit where he was charged with slander. (When O'Connor's drug-addicted son, Hugh, committed suicide in 1995, O'Connor called his son's friend, who procured drugs for the young man, a "murderer." The actor was vindicated by the courts.)
Director Milles staged the Julia Sweeney solo, God Said `Ha!' and has worked at the Mark Taper Forum, MA's American Repertory Theatre and MN's Guthrie Theatre.
For tickets ($33-$45) and information on A Certain Labor Day at Theatre On The Square, call (415)433-9500. Those who bought tickets for performances after Oct. 5 should also contact that box office number.
--By David Lefkowitz