West Coast Premiere: Magic Theatre in
San Francisco on November 14, 2000. Directed by Sam
Shepard. Cast: Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson,
Cheech Marin, James Gammon and Sheila Tousey.
East Coast Premiere: Signature
Theatre Company at the Peter Norton Space in NYC on
September 5, 2001.
Directed by Joseph Chaikin.
Cast: Ethan Hawke and Arliss Howard.
European Premiere: Almeida Theatre in
London on Janary 12, 2006. Directed by Michael
Attenborough. Cast: Brendan Coyle and Andrew Lincoln.
"I didn't write the play with this cast in mind. Actually, I
started writing it 10 years ago, then I put it away, sent it to the archives
unfinished [Signature Theatre]. I reread it later and I still wasn't sure... It
had a good first act, but I virtually rewrote that, and then I did an entirely
new second act." By the time he finished the play, Signature's need for it had
passed. After a workshop production in New York, he began thinking about other
companies. The Magic came to mind "because of my great history there." As for
the cast, "You always have these dream casts in your mind. Sean was the very
first actor I went to. I just went straight to the top. When he said yes, the
rest fell into place."
Dennis Harvey, Variety:
"Seldom his own best editor, Shepard has delivered an
evening whose mostly comic virtues are lovingly (if
variably) riffed upon by the A-list cast. But while that
riffing is sometimes pure pleasure to behold, it too
often seems overindulged in a three-act play that barely
carries enough textual weight for one. Stuffed with
amiable digressions, 'Henry Moss' is wildly
undernourished at the core — resulting in a flaky,
lopsided show that collapses just when it (finally) gets
down to serious dramatic business. Until that letdown,
at least, it’s good to see the author in a more playful,
unpretentious mode than he’s been in for some time."
Michael Phillips, LA Times:
"It’s a boozy, meandering affair. Even if Shepard were
to cut 30 or 45 minutes tomorrow, he’d have larger
matters awaiting him. For a play about uneasily reunited
brothers--comparisons to “True West,” among others, are
In the end, a loosely tied mixed bag. But that bag has
its nuggets of gold."
The New Yorker magazine:
"Shepard’s work is a kind of verbal and visual jazz,
which surprises you with its penetrating leaps of
association and its startling voices. If those voices
don’t come through to Shepard now quite as loud and
clear and prescient as they once did, 'The Late Henry
Moss' is proof that they do still arrive; proof, also,
that Shepard can channel them into moments of arresting
eloquence. 'The Late Henry Moss' will no doubt make it
to New York.
Ben Brantley, NY Times:
"Over the past decade Mr. Shepard has forsaken the
experimental forms with which he made his name in favor
of more conventional, rigidly structured narratives. But
in so doing he has tamed and fenced in an imagination
that was born to run wild. ''Henry Moss' has just enough
glimmers of perversity to suggest that this freer
spirit, the sort of authentically original American
voice that is so much to be cherished right now, is
still somewhere inside Mr. Shepard. It's time to let it
Elyse Sommer, Curtain Up:
"'The Late Henry Moss' contains enough of the hallmarks
of his best known works that Shepard might be accused of
copying from himself... It's the stuff that gives this
and previous Shepard plays the sense of being part of a
continuous saga which the death of the recurring father
figure is apparently bringing to an end."
John Simon, New York Magazine:
"Sam Shepard writes three kinds of plays. Some are
naturalistic, with perhaps a touch of the bizarre; some
are part realistic, part fantastic or arcane; some are
totally nutty. They fall into three periods: the early
one, fascinating though uneven; the middle, mostly
effective and the late, very much inferior. 'The
Late Henry Moss' is, alas, late Sam Shepard, unable to
find its form or convey its meaning. It rehashes the
heavily belabored Shepard topics: ferocious fighting
between brothers; problems with a difficult or
impossible father (present or absent), life in the
desert as opposed to life in the city, sex as a violent
physical conflict, unexplained occurrences with
contradictory explanations whirling around them."
Michael Billington, The Guardian:
"One is reminded of Shepard's true qualities: combining
mythic realism with metaphysical thrills, the play
offers a far more subversive assault on American values
than anything in Shepard's recent piece of poster-art."
Philip Fisher, British Theatre
"'The Late Henry Moss' took Shepard ten years to write
and takes time to achieve its full effect. It is a
deceptively complex comedy that takes a pretty cynical
look at society through six representative members. This
land is cruel but can act as harshly on the bad and
decadent as anybody could wish. Anyone who sees it will
still be thinking of it for days afterwards, which is
always a strong recommendation."
Charlotte Loveridge, Curtain Up:
"This production successfully brings out the primal
element in Sam Shepard's work, which is strongly
evocative of Greek tragedy. Like Eugene O'Neill's
'Mourning Becomes Electra', fate is internalized. The
perpetuating cycle of interfamilial violence is evidence
of psychological inheritance instead of divine fate.
With onstage analepses, this play, which is so much
about the influence of the past on the present, has a
nicely interwoven texture. Earl and Ray's behavior is
conditioned by their father's conduct and a guilty,
unreconciled past. The result is a moving piece with
tragic stature yet gritty humanity."
Patrick Marmion, The Daily Mail:
"When it comes to chronicling American masculinity, few
playwrights have stuck to the task more stubbornly than
Sam Shepard. Clearly this is not everybody's shot of
tequila. Shepard comes from a Sixties generation for
whom drama consists in spewing up one's unconscious for
public examination. It's not meant to be a pretty sight
and nor does Michael Attenborough's rough and ready
production try to make it so. He simply wallows in the
confusion of fantasy and reality in a play that becomes
less clear as it explains more. You've got to be in the
mood for this kind of psychological squalor. But if you
are, it's worth it."