Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tennessee Williams Festival: Plays

I attended five dramatic performances at the Tennessee Williams Festival. These took place at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre in the 600 block of St. Peter Street, either on the mainstage or the Muriel's Cabaret stage. Below I give a description of each performance.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS IN HIS OWN WORDS. This was actually a reading of three of Tennessee's essays published in the newspaper prior to the opening of his plays to whet people's appetite for the play itself. In these essays, Tennessee explains what events led him to write each play and reflects briefly on the play itself without giving away the plot. We heard the three essays that introduced The Night of the Iguana, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Orpheus Descending.

AMERICAN BLUES: TWO ONE-ACTS BY TENNESSEE. These were performed by the Cripple Creek Theater Company.

  • Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. A man and a woman, lovers, are in a bedroom listening to each other talk about their lives, their thoughts, their feelings. They seem to be at the end of their rope financially and emotionally, but they are listening to each other. This play is given to long monologues. The woman particularly has an animated monologue in which she speaks of her yearning to fly away - and the man actually grabs her as she seems ready to take off into flight.
  • This Property is Condemned. Two young teenagers, Willie (female) and Tom (male) are talking as they wander around the railroad tracks behind their town. They seem more like children than teenagers. As their conversation unfolds, it becomes clear that their families are in desperate financial straits due to the Great Depression and that Willie supports herself through prostitution, about which she speaks very innocently.

RELATIVE MADNESS. This play by New Orleanian Phyllis Clemons was presented as a staged reading. It takes place in the kitchen of Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as the family is preparing for Big Daddy's funeral. The women of the family banter about family matters, reveal and resolve small jealousies, and deal with Blanche Dubois when she shows up in their play from A Streetcar Named Desire. The play is very funny.

VOODOO VOWS. This play by Tommie Sorrell, a 2009 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University, is about two sisters (Merle and Zoie) on the morning of the younger sister's (Zoie's) wedding. As the sisters talk and dress for the wedding, they find themselves remembering dark secrets from their childhoods and spilling out their feelings of guilt over "submitting" to their father's sexual abuse and of not protecting each other from it. This leads to Merle's expressing her fears about the character of Zoie's husband-to-be, Bob. As Zoie listens to Merle and expresses her own feelings, she too begins to have doubts about this marriage. The gay hairdresser, Ramon, provides some very fine comic relief.

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. This was the featured Tennessee Williams play of the festival. It was performed by students of the Department of Film, Theatre, and Communication Arts of the University of New Orleans. They gave an excellent performance. Having previously seen the movie (directed by John Huston) but not the play, I noticed two things as I watched the performance. First, I missed the wonderful interactions among the busload of women faculty on tour from the Baptist Female College, who are given far greater scope in the movie. Second, I was enthralled with the boisterous German family, who appear not at all in the movie but who in the play march across the veranda of the Costa Verde Hotel at exactly the moments when one could use some comic relief.

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