The late, Ozark-born playwright, Lanford Wilson, wrote stories for the stage about people in society’s margins, ruptured families and often, the “loss of life, companionship and sanity.” The New York Times once called his plays “greatly admired and widely performed.” One such work, the 3-decade old “Angels Fall,” officially opens Friday in Richard Lambert’s New Phoenix Theatre on the Park (95 Johnson Park), there to stay until April 4.
The estimable Gail Golden guest-directs a cast of six: Mike Randall – continuing to resurrect his acting chops – company impresario Lambert, Pamela Rose Mangus, Candice Kogut, Justin Fiordaliso and Lucas Lloyd. It’s a harrowing tale of a nuclear accident in New Mexico and an impoverished Catholic mission church where a group of troubled travelers take sanctuary and put their immediate plans on hold until their life-threatening situation is resolved – or not. Moving on is a hope. Dying is a possibility.
Three of playwright Wilson’s plays once graced Studio Arena Theatre’s stage, including a premiere of his autobiographical “Lemon Sky” in 1970; he was in town to supervise. A story circulating since, possibly apocryphal, tells of Wilson’s stay at the then-declining Hotel Lafayette with a missing “e” in its hotel marquee. A subsequent Wilson play, “The Hot L Baltimore,” was said to have been inspired by that sign. It could be true.
“Angels Fall,” nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in the early 1980s, is yet another example of Wilson’s knack for gritty, authentic dialogue and the interaction of larger-than-life characters, including the mission priest, Father Doherty. “A parable of vocation and survival,” says the New Phoenix.
General admission tickets are $30; students and seniors, $20. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. All Thursday performances are pay-what-you-can. Call 853-1334 or visit http://newphoenixtheatre.org.
– Ted Hadley