Robert Sella, late of Cabaret and Side Man, will play the anguished, wounded Jewish soldier, Coney, in the first New York City revival of Arthur Laurents' 1945 drama, Home of the Brave.
The Jewish Repertory Theatre production, Dec. 4-26, directed by Richard Sabellico, will have Laurents as creative consultant. The playwright has expressed interest in reconsidering some lines in the script, about camaraderie, betrayal and anti-Semitism in a World War II military unit.
The ground-breaking play cast a light on anti-Semitism in American life, but failed to find a wide audience in its original production at Broadway's Belasco Theatre. It ran 69 performances (opening Dec. 27, 1945 and closing Feb. 23, 1946). It was cited in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays volume that year. A 1949 film version concerned a black soldier facing racism.
The JRT staging begins previews Dec. 4 at Playhouse 91, opens Dec. 12 and continues to Dec. 26. The rest of the casting is incomplete.
There is a hope the work might extend and finally find its wider audience, Sabellico told Playbill On-Line. The work, which may have been too dark and jarring for an audience that wanted to heal the wounds of war, was Laurents' first play.
The writer would go on to musical theatre legend as librettist for West Side Story and Gypsy, among other shows, and as a director (La Cage aux Folles) and screenwriter ("The Way We Were"). Other plays include Heart-Song, A Clearing in the Woods, The Enclave and Invitation to a March.
In the 1999-2000 season, Laurents, 81, is seeing revivals of three of his works in the New York City area. The George Street Playhouse in New Jersey is currently reviving Do I Hear a Waltz? (the Stephen Sondheim-Richard Rodgers tuner based on Laurents' The Time of the Cuckoo) and Lincoln Center Theatre has Cuckoo on its slate for spring 2000.
Although Home of the Brave appears in anthologies of the best work of the 1940s, it never received a major New York revival, despite its availability.
-- By Kenneth Jones