Small Town's Dark Secrets

Missouri-born Lanford Wilson, a pioneer of the Off-Off Broadway movement in the 1960's, has emerged as one of the theater's most cogent chroniclers of American life. In Book of Days, one of his best works, he combines the moral currency of Arthur Miller with the narrative finesse of Tennessee Williams. Thanks to New World Theatre, a new Off-Off Broadway theater company, New Yorkers have an opportunity to see a well-crafted production of this 1999 drama if they missed the New York City premiere, which was part of the Signature Theater's 2002-2003 season devoted to Wilson's work.

The evening opens with the 12-member cast reciting in choral fashion anodyne phrases about their fictional small town of Dublin, Mo. It is a device that recalls the stage manager of Our Town, but we soon realize that we have wandered far from Thornton Wilder territory.

The play, intelligently directed by Robert A. Zick Jr., unfolds as a series of vignettes. Each is framed by a date and a descriptive phrase

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