Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company, which is devoting its entire 1996-97 season to the works of playwright Sam Shepard, has a hit with the first production of the season.
The current double-bill of one-act plays, the New York premiere of When the World Was Green (A Chef's Fable) and 1965's Chicago, directed by longtime Shepard collaborator Joseph Chaikin, has been extended to Dec. 15. It had been scheduled to close Dec. 1. World Was Green had its world premiere this past summer at the Seven Stages Theatre of Atlanta, as part of that theatre's celebration of the Olympic games.
Performances are at the Susan Stein Shiva Theatre in the Joseph Papp Public Theatre complex in New York's Greenwich Village.
The world premiere of a new full-length play TBA by Shepard will be another highlight of the season.
Full season explorations of a single author's work is the policy of Signature, which is concluding a full season devoted to the works of Adrienne Kennedy. Signature will present seven Shepard plays (on four evenings), two Shepard films, and a season benefit featuring Shepard reading from his own works.
Here is the rest of the Signature roster.
* The Tooth of Crime: A "rewritten" revival of Shepard's 1972 play about a mythical rock musician. Directed by Bill Hart. With all new music and lyrics by T. Bone Burnett. Begins open-ended run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Nov. 15.
No dates have yet been set for the rest of the season:
* A double-bill of one-act 1975 plays, Action; and The Killer's Head.
* A revival of the 1983 musical The Sad Lament of Pecos Bill on the Eve of Killing His Wife with lyrics by Catherine Stone.
* A new full-length play TBA, to be directed in spring 1997 by James Houghton.
* Two films written by Shepard: Far North (1988) and Silent Tongue (1992).
* A benefit evening of Shepard reading from his works.
Signature Theatre Company attracted attention in 1994 and 1995 when the playwrights of those two seasons -- Edward Albee and Horton Foote, respectively -- won Pulitzer Prizes. Albee's winning Three Tall Women had been presented by another Off-Broadway company, but Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta had its premiere at Signature.
Like Albee, Shepard is a previous winner of the Pulitzer, for his Buried Child, which was revived, on Broadway, in April 1996, and nominated for a Best Play Tony Award.
Signature's artistic director is James Houghton.
Shepard's other plays include True West, Fool for Love (being revived in London this season), The Unseen Hand and A Lie of the Mind. His most recent play, Simpatico, was presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) in late 1994. Shepard, who began his career in 1960s off-off-Broadway experimental theatre, has also pursued an on-again off-again career as an actor in films such as The Right Stuff.
Pending approval from Actors' Equity Association, the Signature season will continue its "interim" relationship as tenant of the Susan Stein Shiva Theatre in the Joseph Papp Public Theatre complex in Greenwich Village for the 1996-97 season.
For information and tickets: (212) 239-6200.
-- By Robert Viagas