Last week Dave and I went to a preview for the Aurora Theater’s production of one of Dave’s favorite plays, Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July. It’s a lovely production, and the acting was very good all around, though here and there it did feel just like a preview performance, with the characterizations sometimes a little roughly sketched in, still needing to deepen and fill in some details. We’re planning to go back later in the run and see how things have developed.
One thing Dave loves about Fifth of July, which debuted in 1978, is that it may well be the first successful American play in which the central character is a gay man and yet the story is in no way about the fact that he’s gay. Being gay is just there, just another thing that particularizes him, like his hair color or his accent; if he were straight, the relationships and the story wouldn’t be hugely different. Wow, a play where people like us are just ordinary people, part of the fabric of the world, no big deal. What’s more important to the story is that he lost both legs in the Vietnam War and hobbles around on fiberglass prothenics and crutches, and that he’s given up on what he thought he was going to do next with his life, but he hasn’t told friends and family about this or come up with anything else to do instead. Meanwhile, his aunt still hasn’t gotten up the wherewithal to scatter her late husband’s ashes as he requested, even though it’s been several years since he passed away.
It’s a good play about how life stalls out on us sometimes, and we have to figure out how to let go of our past hopes and find a way to move forward. We hope to get back for a second time.