Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Five By Tenn: Five One-Act Plays by Tennessee Williams"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi


"FIVE BY TENN: FIVE ONE-ACT PLAYS BY TENNESSEE WILLIAMS"

by Tennessee Williams
directed by Scott Edmiston

“THESE ARE THE STAIRS YOU GOT TO WATCH”

Carl … Christopher Brophy
Boy … Eric Rubbe
Gladys … Ellen Adair
Man … Allyn Burrows
Mr. Kroger … Bill Young
Cashier … Mary Klug
Policeman … Will McGarahan
Joan Bennett (voiceover) … Anne Scurria

“SUMMER BY THE LAKE”

Mrs. Fenway … Anne Scurria
Donald … Eric Rubbe
Anna … Mary Klug

“VIEUX CARRE” (excerpt)

Nightingale … Will McGarahan
Writer … Eric Rubbe

“AND TELL SAD STORIES OF THE DEATH OF QUEENS”

Candy Delaney … Allyn Burrows
Carl … Christopher Brophy
Krenning … Eric Rubbe
Jerry Johnson … Will McGarahan

“Those Who Ignore the Appropriate Time of their Going” (poem recited by Allyn Burrows)

“I CAN’T IMAGINE TOMORROW”
One … Bill Young
Two … Eric Rubbe

“MISTER PARADISE”

Jonathan Jones … Bill Young
Girl … Ellen Adair

SpeakEasy’s FIVE BY TENN showcases five (six, really) of Tennessee Williams’ little-known one-act plays, some never published nor performed in his lifetime, arranged and directed by Scott Edmiston as a biography of the poet-playwright from youth to old age, focusing on Mr. Williams’s Chekhovian side rather than the hothouse world that “Tennessee Williams” evokes. The closet is aired out, so to speak, to include a male-male coupling from VIEUX CARRÉ (Mr. Williams’ last true masterpiece), the astonishing “And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens” about a transvestite taking up with a stud (amazingly, not a parody of the usual Williams male-female couple), and the lonely woman and man in “I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow” changed to a pair of December-June men where the elder could well be conversing with his youthful self. Yes, Mr. Williams has been liberated and if his iconography smacks of his era’s repression, the current film BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN shows that there are parts of America where suffering is still the price to pay for loving another of one’s own sex.

Janie E. Howland’s French Quarter setting is sadly nostalgic since Hurricane Katrina knocked the soul out of the real thing; having recently thrown orange-and-blue beams over New Rep’s FROZEN tundra, Karen Perlow filters FIVE BY TENN through dusky tones perfect for this gauzy world of guilt and pleasure. Much of Mr. Williams’ dramatis personae are recurring types and Mr. Edmiston, who can polish an ensemble to make each member shine yet still be part of the whole, has cast eight distinctive actors who fit snugly into the moulds, activating them from within: thus, Eric Rubbe makes a spring-tight narrator, popping with repression; Anne Scurria and Mary Klug are delightful she-dragons, free of camp; Allyn Burrow’s tremulous queen and Christopher Brophy’s surly stud have the right fusion of menace and allure; Will McGarrahan warms his usual flippancy as a dying artist still lusting after life; and William Young and the ever-radiant Ellen Adair begin as a choleric theatre owner and a sluttish teen and close as a dying poet and the breathless fan who comes to resurrect him. FIVE BY TENN may or may not take its place alongside the masterworks but a brave new world has been revealed, nevertheless, and Mr. Williams would weep to hear his freed voice so lovingly sung as it is, here!

"Five By Tenn: Five One-Act Plays by Tennessee Williams" (27 January - 25 February)
SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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