note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
There’s an air of mystery, intrigue, as one enters the unmarked, tony Boston boutique Ames Hotel to see Company One’s production of Tennessee Williams’ 45-minute, one-act play, “Green Eyes”. Once inside, theatergoers must check in, get numbers and coat check tags, then proceed to a small elevator, check their coats and wait to enter, wondering what’s behind the green door - figuratively speaking. Wait ‘til you find out. It’s an experience you won’t forget.
Although the 14-page “Green Eyes” script lay forgotten among Williams’ later works, when Director Travis Chamberlain dusted it off and presented it to New York City audiences of 14, in a room of the Hudson Hotel, the show sold out. Locally, it’s garnering public and critical awe.
Only 25 seats uniformly arranged in three rows are sold here for each performance, also set in a hotel room. Facing a strangely-decorated bedroom - the walls are covered with camouflage netting seen on battlefields, offset by a tacky black velvet painting of a fierce tiger (which Chamberlain created) - there’s a sense of timelessness. Although Williams wrote this play in 1970, setting it in New Orleans’ French Quarter during the Vietnam War era, contemporary audiences easily identify with it, as thousands of soldiers are serving in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Besides that menacing large picture on the wall, a dial telephone and old-fashioned radio on the nightstand, there are no other clues indicating time and space.
Star Erin Markey, who originated the role in the Big Apple and is also an accomplished writer, singer, and performer, is sweet yet sensuous, as she enters, singing softly. Coyly, she flirts and toys with the audience. She sashays up to a man in the front row, urging him to unzip her simple white frock - which he does eagerly. She undresses, jumps into bed, tossing her underwear to the shocked audience. And she giggles, delighted with her naughtiness.
Thus begins this erotic, psychological play with its layers of violence and desire. As the young woman’s soldier husband, Claude Dunphy, battles post-traumatic stress disorder through violent, explosive flashbacks, he rants, seethes, attacks, accuses, his taut body heaving and ebbing. As Claude, Alan Brincks, (who is also a director and freelance scenic carpenter), is intense here, his entire body consumed with rage and psychological torture.
Noting bruises and scratches on his bride’s semi-nude body, Claude accuses her of having sex with somebody else. She appease him, cuddling close to him, teasing, then withdrawing. Bellowing, he says he was ordered to shoot down screaming women and children. He’s fuming he’s shipping out, back to Waakow, (a fictitious name for Vietnam), in five days.
The couple’s battle rages and recedes. He throws her around. She knocks him down. He accuses her. She shames him. As he deals with his inner demons by guzzling whiskey, imaginary helicopters and planes loom above us, deafeningly. Bullets zing and bombs soar. He can’t escape his torment. She is unsympathetic. And she has reason to be bitter, she screams.
Fight director Jason Howard has magnificently choreographed the couple’s tosses and tussles, and Derek Wright’s lighting, along with Chamberlain and Duncan Cutler’s sound design, heighten “Green Eyes’”intensity. Although Emerson College student/actor Sheldon Brown’s appearance is brief, he’s piercing, his role pivotal in this provocative drama.
Awed by Markey and Brincks’ portrayals, theatergoers are silent throughout the play, but talk animatedly later.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With “Green Eyes,” interpretation, too, lies within the individual.
BOX INFO: One-act, 45-minute erotic thriller play, written by Tennessee Williams, presented by Company One in collaboration with Director Travis Chamberlain, Chris Keegan and The Kindness. Appearing through Feb 12 at a room in the Ames Hotel, 1 Court St., Boston. Extra seats added because of demand. Performances: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 7 and 9 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, at 8 and 10 p.m. All tickets for theatergoers 18+, $35. Call 800-838-3006, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/199882, or for more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.