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Fifth of July; Comedy by Landford Wilson, Directed by Marshall W. Mason. Starring Christopher Reeves.

By John Beaufort / December 1, 1980



"Fifth of July," a 1978 Circle Repertory Company hit, is receiving a Broadway production at the New Apollo theather.The Lanfort Wilson comedy about what became of several '60s activists has been somewhat revised and has been recast in three major roles.

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The production stars Circle Rep alumnus christopher Reeve in a finely sensed performance as Kenneth Talley Jr., the legless Vietnam veteran determined to avoid the teaching commitment for which he has signed a contract. Freaky, foulmouthed copper heiress and would-be pop singer Gwen Landis is played by Swoosie Kurtz with surpassing comic brilliance. Aunt Sally Friedman -- the Sally Talley of "Talley's Folly" now advanced to slightly eccentric widowhood -- is appealing portrayed by Mary Carver.

Otherwise, "Fifth of July" relies on the excellent Circle Rep regulars of the original production. Marshall W. Mason has again directed a performance combining comic insights and humane concern for a group of middle Americans whose youthful fervor has subsided into uncomfortable resignation. In this segment of a contemplated five-play cycle, Mr. Wilson takes an unsentimental and in the end somewhat hopeful look at onetime campus rebels -- flower children whose flowers drooped and faded as they discovered that solidarity was not, after all, forever. John Lee Beatty's setting for a Lebanon, Missouri, farmhouse provides the hospitable, picturesquely rambling premises for Mr. Wilson's comic celebration of a less than glorious fifth.