Tony-nommed playwright explored gay identity

Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Lanford Wilson, who penned “Talley’s Folly,” “Fifth of July” and “Burn This,” died Wednesday in Wayne, N.J. He was 73.

The playwright died on the eve of the Steppenwolf Theater’s first preview of a staging of his “The Hot L Baltimore” in Chicago.

“His tremendous spirit is with us in the theater and tonight’s show will be in his memory and honor,” Tina Landau, the director of the production, said Thursday.

Wilson, a founder of the Off Off Broadway movement, explored themes of gay identity and angst in his work.

He was one of four founding members of New York’s Circle Repertory Theater, with which he worked closely. Several of his works played Broadway, and three — “Angels Fall” “Talley’s Folly” and “Fifth of July” — received Tony nominations for best play.

Wilson’s best known, and most revived, play is 1986 drama “Burn This,” an ensembler about a group of friends grappling with the death of an associate.

He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for “Talley’s Folly.” “The Talley Trilogy,” which also includes “Talley and Son” and “Fifth of July,” follows a Missouri family in the early part of the 20th century.

He wrote 17 full-length plays and more than 30 one-acts, creating gently lyrical works that look back at a lost past.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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