Ethan Hawke, Arliss Howard and Sheila Tousey star in the Off-Broadway, Signature Theatre Company mounting of Sam Shepard's latest, The Late Henry Moss, which began previews Sept. 5. Guy Boyd, Michael Aronov, Tim Michael, Jose Perez and Clark Middleton are also in the cast of the show, which has sold out tickets through Oct. 14 and has therefore extended its run to the new closing date of Nov. 4. The show officially opens Sept. 23. A spokesperson reached Sept. 6 cautions that the play cannot extend further at the Peter Norton space because of the rest of the Signature season.
Occasional Shepard collaborator Joseph Chaikin directs. Actor Hawke plays Ray in the play, a role essayed by Sean Penn in the show's West Coast premiere.
The play's sold-out-before-it-opened CA premiere boasted such notables in the cast as filmdom's Penn, Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson. Diminutive actor Middleton's Off-Broadway credits span nearly 25 years, including work at the Public Theatre, Circle Repertory and La MaMa. Among his recent credits are Curse of the Starving Class at NY's Signature Theatre, 1995's Kidnapped at NY's Miranda Theatre Company, and Greetings at DC's Capitol Rep. His solo about coping with the after effects of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis were recounted in the 1997 Off Off-Broadway solo, Miracle Mile.
Set in the Shepardian version of the American West, Henry Moss pits two brothers, Earl and Ray (originally, Nolte and Penn), against the memory of their father Henry, whose family secrets and death are revealed in mysterious ways. Spicing up the comic mix are a neighbor who spends his time making the Mexican tripe-and-chili soup, called Menudo, a talkative cab driver, and a rhumba-dancing girlfriend (Tousey).
Designing the show are Christine Jones (set), Teresa Snyder Stein (costumes), Michael Chybowski (lighting), David Van Tieghem and Jill DuBoff (sound). B.H. Barry fight dir. Choreography by Peter Pucci. The Late Henry Moss opened at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square Nov. 14, 2000. The production, sold out before a single performance played, began Nov. 7 for a run through Dec. 17.
Also promised for the Signature Theatre's 2001-02 season, according to spokespersons, are the world premieres of Edward Albee's I Think Back Now on André Gide (Feb. 5-March 17, 2002, opening TBA) and John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals (April 23-June 2, 2002; opening TBA).
Promotional materials for the theatre note that Albee's play is "one of his most `experimental' to date," while Guare's tells of a penniless man whose son squandered his fortune. He's offered a new fortune by a publishing company for his memoirs, but will he hang on long enough to write and remember?
Going back to its one-season-per-playwright modus operandi, the Signature Theatre Company will dedicate its 2002-03 season to Lanford Wilson.
Wilson's work began being produced in New York in 1963, at places like Caffe Cino and La MaMa, where he and Sam Shephard (a Signature playwright of several seasons back) were contemporaries. Early plays included Rimers of Eldritch and Balm in Gilead, which Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company revived to great acclaim in the early '80s. Wilson's fortunes rose with the '70s, a time which saw the success of such works as Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore and the first two part of his "Talley Trilogy," 5th of July and Talley's Folly. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize.
Many of these works were presented at Circle Repertory Company, a landmark Off-Broadway troupe Wilson co-founded.
The last decade, however, has seen a slow falling off in Wilson's commercial and critical stock. The last play of his to reach Broadway was 1993's Redwood Curtain, which quickly closed to great financial loss and by some accounts helped speed the subsequent demise of Circle Rep. Many of Wilson's most recent efforts — including The Rain Dance, Book of Days and A Sense of Place, or Virgil Is Still the Frog Boy — haven't been seen in New York, debuting instead at such places as the Bay Street Theatre in Long Island and the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI.
Wilson said Book of Days and Rain Dance were possibilities for the Signature season.
For tickets and information on The Late Henry Moss at the Signature Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space, 555 West 42nd St., call (212) 244-7529.
—By David Lefkowitz
Robert Simonson and Christine Ehren