In Bernalillo, New Mexico, brothers Ray and Earl return home to mark the passing of their estranged father Henry. Over a bottle of bourbon and a box of old photographs, tales of their childhoods emerge. As they encounter Henry's bizarre collection of friends, including his wild and voracious lover, the colorful circumstances surrounding his death provoke violent suspicion.

Performance History:

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.

Sam Shepard

"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."

San Francisco reviews:

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 inevitable... 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.

NY reviews:

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 loose again."

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."

London reviews:

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 Guide:
"'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."