Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor is presenting a revival of playwright Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July, the prequel to his Pulitzer Prize winning Talley’s Folly. That Wilson is a resident of Sag Harbor since 1970 adds a touch of irony to the evening directed by Terry Kinny, which will run July 6 through August 1. The playwright’s themes often echo a struggle to preserve the past while moving on, which is reflected in the historic fishing village he calls home.
Wilson established his career Off Broadway in the early 1960’s as a playwright with a unique voice writing his signature one-act plays like The Madness of Lady Bright, and soon co-founded The Circle Repertory Company in 1969, where his production of The Hot L Baltimore won him critical acclaim and numerous awards. Fifth of July originated there in 1978 with William Hurt and Jeff Daniels before debuting on Broadway in 1980 with Christopher Reeve taking over for Hurt. A television film with Richard Thomas put the play to rest until The Signature Theater Company revived the drama in 2002 as part of a season-long tribute to Lanford Wilson.
Fifth of July is set in 1977 at the Tally Farm, a prosperous spread in southern Missouri, where Ken Tally Jr., a legless 33 year old Vietnam veteran and his lover Jed, a horticulturist live in the sprawling family Farmhouse built at the turn of the century. The time is the evening of the 4th of July and the following morning during a weekend long visit of Ken’s 34 year old sister June, who has brought her teenage daughter Shirley. Also there for the weekend are old friends from his college days Gwen and John, former activists now distressed over what they had thought would be a better world. Gwen is a hard drinking, pill popping heiress, who aspires to be a rock star and John is her husband manager. The action of the play centers on Gwen’s offer to buy the farm, which she would like to turn into a recording studio and on Ken’s 64 year old Aunt Sally, who has come to the farm to scatter the ashes of her late husband. The play is profoundly moving and often hilarious with sharp funny dialogue. Fifth of July is one of Wilson’s most memorable works, which in its final essence deeply reveals the lost hopes and dreams of a generation and the need to accept the bitterness necessary to move on to a better more fulfilling life.
Terry Kinny one of the founding members of Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theater Company will put his unique spin on the revival of Wilson’s classic ensemble play. Kinny’s directing credits at Steppenwolf include The Violet Hour, Of Mice and Men, and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which moved to Broadway and won a Tony Award for best revival of a play. Mr. Kinny is an accomplished actor, as well, probably best known for his role as Tim McManus in the HBO series “Oz.” He has also appeared in the films “Save the Last Dance” and “Sleepers.”
Theater trained actor and film star Anson Mount, whose breakthrough role was in the Brittney Spears film “Crossroads in 2002 will head the ensemble as Ken Talley Jr. He has also appeared in the movies “Tully,” “City by the Sea,” and “Corpus Christi.” Shane McRae, whose theater credits include Take Me Out, Killers And Other Family, in addition to the film “Bad Teacher,” will play his lover Jed, and Jennifer Mudge will take on the pivotal role as the story’s catalyst Gwen, which won Swoosie Kurtz a Tony Award. Mudge appeared at Bay Street in No Time for Comedy and on Broadway in The Philanthropist.
Several Broadway veterans are featured in the revival including Elizabeth Franz (Death of a Salesman), who will play Ken’s preoccupied Aunt Sally, David Wilson Barnes (The Lieutenant of Inishmore and the film “You Don’t Know Jack), will create John Landis and Kelly Overbey (Buried Child, Cost of Utopia), who has tread the boards at Bay Street in Night Season and Earth to Bucky will be Ken’s sister June.
Rounding out the talented ensemble are Danny Deferrari (Thujone, Trouble Tales for Boys and Girls, As You Like It), and Kally Duling (Bus Stop, Little Women, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown).
Gordin & Christiano
Opening night is Saturday July 10th at 8 PM, and there are a limited number of two-fer tickets, which can be purchased on the day of the performance during previews July 6th -9th, and for matinees. The running schedule through August 1, 2010 is Tuesday- Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 7 PM, and matinees on Wednesday at 2 PM and Sunday at 4 PM. Tickets are available by calling 631-725-9500 or by visiting the box office on the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.