Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Kingdom of Earth"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Kingdom of Earth"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of The Players' 100th season is Tennessee Williams' darkly comic psychodrama "Kingdom of Earth".According to Ed Rondeau in his director's notes, the show began as a short story written in the 1938 and was one of Williams' early works. Set in a small farmhouse in the Mississippi Delta, a trio of misfits is trapped in a dilapidated Mississippi farmhouse endangered by an encroaching flood. The frail and effeminate Lot, in the last stages of tuberculosis, has returned home to the farmhouse with his wife of 24 hours, the aging, down-on-her-luck showgirl, Myrtle. Lot's return fuels a longstanding feud with his half-brother, Chicken, over the owner ship of the family estate. As rising flood waters threaten her new home, Myrtle, who is frightened of, but fascinated by, the macho Chicken, makes several trips down to his kitchen lair from the upstairs bedroom, where her new husband is fighting for breath and losing his tenuous hold on reality. It has everything an audience expects from a Williams play, a faded belle (who happens in this case to be a man), a brutish animal type who's irresistible to woman, a bigger-than-life heroine in a tough spot, and a rocking chair in the moonlight. For the central character, Williams has Myrtle, who is reminiscent of his Blanche Dubois, a luckless young woman trapped in her romantic ideals. Chicken is an earlier version of Stanley Kowalski, a robust and physical fellow with strong passionate yearnings and determined ways. The third character, Lot, is a younger version of the dying old man in "The Night of the Iguana" , a weak and seriously ailing youth with an unhealthy attachment to the memory of his dead mother, Lottie, and is unable to go through with matrimonial duties. It is Myrtle's idealistic dream to nurse the dying youth back to health, but she discovers that his only purpose is to make her steal from his sullen and embittered half-brother the deed to the property that he had weakly given him while the half-brother is waiting and plotting with amorous plans of his own. Ed Rondeau splendidly brings these characters to life with his expert direction and his hard working stage manager, Shelley Tragar keeps things moving smoothly backstage and on stage to keep the action flowing beautifully all night long.

Ed not only directed the show but created the unit set for it. On the mainstage is the bedroom while on platforms below it are the parlor and kitchen set. He creates a space that is responsive to both the piece's power and it's intimacy so that the subtlety of the play can work. and the enormity of dramatic situation can land. The expert lighting for the show is by Ruth Fagan. the three performers are powerful in their roles. Sue Bergeron plays the larger than life, Myrtle perfectly. She makes Myrtle a floozy who dresses outlandishly but keeps her innocent and ditsy. Sue makes the character into a good person who is a schemer as well as sexual desire incarnate. Her actions and reactions to the strange situation that she has become trapped in, are right on the money. Chicken is played with brooding intensity by Michael Ianiero. His physical prowess and threatening manner are excellent for this character. The frightening moment as he drowns the cat and later starts to have sexual relations with Myrtle, are brilliant. Jim Brown as Lot, tugs at your heartstrings at first when you discover that Lot has a fatal illness but it is his dramatic descent into "Psycho" - like behavior that is stunning as he descends the stairs dressed in a gown and blonde wig. So for a look at one of Tennessee William's earlier shows with a topnotch cast, be sure to catch "Kingdom of Earth". To become a member of this theatre club for their 100th season call Lydia Matteson at 273-0590. Kudos to everyone who worked on this show to make it a success.

"Kingdom of Earth" (4 - 12 October)
THE PLAYERS
400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401)273-0590

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