Fifth Of July
by Lanford Wilson
February 9 - 24, 1990
Directed by Kate Hammet-Leader
The scene is a sprawling
farmhouse in rural Missouri, which is home to Ken, a legless Vietnam veteran,
and his lover, Jed, a horticulturist. They are visited by Ken's sister, June,
and her teenage daughter, and by Gwen and John--the former a hard-drinking,
pill-popping heiress who aspires to be a rock star, the latter her wary-eyed
husband and manager.
All are old friends from college days, and former activists
who agitated for what they hoped would be a better world. The action centers on
Gwen's offer to buy the farm, which she plans to convert into a recording
center, and on Ken's Aunt Sally, who has come to the family homestead to scatter
the ashes of her late husband. Their talk, as the play progresses, is sharp and
funny and, in the final essence, deeply revealing of lost hopes and dreams and
of the bitterness which must be fought back if one is to perceive the good which
life can offer.
In Lanford Wilson's THE FIFTH
OF JULY, we find a generation in quiet crisis - the generation whose college
years were during the 1960's and the Vietnam Conflict. He shows us the
"morning after" - an emotional, physical, and spiritual hangover from
the era of the Flower Child and Vietnam.
The scene is set in 1977 and
the fireworks of the 60's have fizzled and grown cold, cold as our dreams of a
brave new world of brotherhood and equality. Today our mouths are filled with
the sour aftertaste of the heady wine of idealism.
We laugh with, grieve with a
lost generation of young adults trying to piece together the confetti of their
lives after the celebration has passed. Yet, what can you and I gain from this
funny, bitter, painful, but ultimately hopeful insight into the life of Kenny
Talley and his friends? Many of us, too, carry the physical and spiritual scars
of Vietnam, casual drug use, protests, casual sex, shattered dreams.
Kenny struggles with a vision
of pieces of his buddy's body raining down around him in the fields of Nam.
Pieces of his own life are still falling about him now, 15 years later. It
seemed so important then.
How fast it all went by.
Today the words "Ask not
what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" are
just a quote kids memorize for tests. They view without passion old footage of
the "I had a dream!" miracle that moved our souls.
It's History, man! History!
So here we stand, halfway
toward death. "What was it all for?" we ask in anger. Shall we hang on
to our disappointment or grow up and accept the present?
Wilson confronts us as Kenny
confronts Wes in the play. From disillusionment, disappointment and shattered
dreams draw new strength. Release the past. Go forward. Involve yourself in the
future. "Eat the fart-thawed meat and live!"