The Late Henry Moss, the world premiere of Sam Shepard's newest play starring filmdom's Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson, Cheech Marin and Sean Penn, ends its run at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square Dec. 17. The Magic Theatre production, sold out before a single peformance played, began Nov. 7.
Despite the stellar cast, The Late Henry Moss opened Nov. 14 to less-than-stellar reviews for both the company - especially Penn - and for the work itself. Although the San Francisco critics conjectured that the play may eventually make its way to New York, they felt The Late Henry Moss still needed work and was, powerful moments aside, not at the level of Shepard's best.
Starring as Penn's brother Earl, Nolte, a 1999 Academy Award nominee for "Affliction," recently appeared in the Shepard film, "Simpatico," based on his play. As brother Ray, Penn, a 2000 Academy Award nominee for Woody Allen's "Sweet And Lowdown," was also nominated for 1996's "Dead Man Walking." Harrelson starred in the Roundabout Theatre's 1999 revival of The Rainmaker, after appearing in such films as "Natural Born Killers," "Kingpin" and his Academy Award-nominated turn as Larry Flynt in "The People vs. Larry Flynt." All three actors appeared in Terrence Malick's Academy Award nominated film, The Thin Red Line. Marin is best known for the 70's Cheech & Chong comedy team, the TV series “Nash Bridges,” and comic film roles in "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Tin Cup" and "The Lion King."
Also in the Moss cast are Jim Gammon and Sheila Tousey. Gammon was Tony nominated for the Gary Sinise revival of Shepard's Buried Child and also performed in the playwright's Curse of the Starving Class and Simpatico Off Broadway.
Set in the Shepardian version of the American West, Henry Moss pits two brothers, Earl and Ray against the memory of their father Henry (Gammon), whose family secrets and death are revealed in mysterious ways. Spicing up the comic mix are Marin's neighbor whose spends his time making the Mexican tripe and chili soup, menudo, Harrelson's talkative cab driver, and a rhumba-dancing girlfriend (Tousey). *
Henry Moss kicks off the Magic season, which continues with three American premieres and two world premieres, including the British plays Howie the Rookie and Silence, and a new adaptation of Death in Venice.
Howie the Rookie, a London hit by Irishman Mark O'Rowe, humorously exposes the dark underbelly of Dublin, where a gangland feud erupts over a bug-infested mattress and some lost Siamese fighting fish. Original Irish stars Aidan Kelly Karl Shiels will recreate their roles under original director Mike Bradwell. Rookie runs Feb. 2-25 at the Magic Theatre.
Giles Havergal, Drama Desk and Olivier Award winner for Travels with My Aunt, will star in Robert MacDonald's one-man adaptation of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. This production, which first had its debut at Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre, runs at the Magic March 30-April 22.
Silence reigns at the Magic April 13-May 6 with Blackburn Award winner Moira Buffini's new drama. Bowing at the San Francisco venue right after it makes its world premiere in London, Silence is set in the world of the Vikings and Celts, where violence and sex break and create alliances and wars.
The two world premieres, slated for summer, are as yet unannounced, but playwrights being considered are Rebecca Gilman (Spinning into Butter), Cherylene Lee, Michelle Carter and Melanie Marnich.
For ticket information on shows at the Magic Theatre, 450 Post Street in San Francisco, call (415) 441-8822.
-- By Christine Ehren