Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Night of The Iguana"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark


"The Night of The Iguana"

by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Bob Eiland

Set Design by Jim Lynch
Lighting Design by Iain Bason
Costume Design by Harriet Miller
Sound Design by Brian ehrig, Joy Kendall
Production Manager Susan Harrington
Stage Manager Robbin Joyce

Pancho...........................................................Bill Bravo
Maxine Faulk............................................Sydelle Pittas
Pedro.......................................................Hugo Mendez
The Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon.....Will MacDonald
Wolfgang..................................................Eric Lindblad
Hilda..........................................................Anne Hazlett
Herr Fahrenkopf.....................................Phillipe Koenig
Frau Fahremkopf.. .................................Julie Cleveland
Hank......................................................Tom Lawrence
Miss Judith Fellowes..................................Janey Fererri
Hannah Jelkes............................................Janet Dauray
Charlotte Goodall................................Meghan Finnerty
Nonno....................................................Ernest Stevens
Jake Latta......................................................Bill Bravo

One great advantage Community Theatres have is age: people can look the part, and actors and directors have memories, experiences, and observations and lives they can draw on. And another advantage is that everyone (not only those on stage) does it for love --- which is the true meaning of the word "amateur" isn't it? Director Bob Eiland used both for the Arlington Friends of The Drama production of Tennessee Williams' classic "The Night of The Iguana". Counting the movie, I have seen this play four times now, and this is the best it has ever been.

One of the disadvantages of Community Theater though is the brevity of the run. It runs for only one more week-end before it becomes a luminously poetic memory for all who manage to see it. You should try to be one of them.

The director's eye for detail is everywhere apparent in this show. For instance, there are two bored, indifferent Mexican servants/toyboys who shuffle sullenly off at shouts of "Andale! Pronto!!" when they're not lounging or sprawling with indolent smirks at conversations they cannot understand. And yet Bill Bravo and Hugo Mendez never become irrelevant parts of the set because, like everyone else in this production, they are always in character and involved with the action, even with nothing to say.

Ah, the set! The peripatetic Jim Lynch (He's everywhere! He's Everywhere!!) has framed this hilltop veranda with lush, vibrant rain-forest trees and greenery, and put doors for three thin motel cabanas at the back-center of the stage. Then a cyclorama stretching to the ends of the stage behind it all glows in rich purple-blues. Even a half-buried head sculpted by Patricia Prevert (mostly Olmec but with sharp Aztec corners) makes this seacoast spot timeless. The entire set reflects the play's central conflict of realism with the fantastic.

The three principals are either side of forty and weighed down by the choices that dictated their lives. Each is, in a sense, tethered like the lizard of the title, tormented and restless to be free. Struggling the hardest is Will MacDonald's Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon who arrives already exhausted and a bit wrinkled, pursued by a busload of irate Texas Baptist Sunday-school teachers he's been paid to shepherd through tourist sights. One (Meghan Finnerty), a few months shy of seventeen, accepted his invitation for a side-trip through seedier realities and now expects him to marry her! Another (Janet Ferreri) is a sharp-faced harpy making collect calls to get him fired and arrested for rape if he ventures stateside. For Shannon, reality seems to hold all the cards.

Whenever he cracks up (about every two years) he's headed for this lovely-vista-ed veranda and the accepting arms of the motel's proprietors Mr. & Mrs. Faulk. Only this time Fred's dead --- a champion fisherman now feeding the fishes --- and his lusty widow (Sydelle Pittas) is hoping for a replacement who speaks English. Her accent in Spanish is flavored with a lazy southern tinge and an earthy accommodation with reality --- one she seriously recommends to all comers.

Maxine Faulk is here to stay, and gladly accepting the money of a quartet of monolingual Germans (Eric Lindblad, Anne Hazlett, Phillipe Koenig, Julie Cleveland) whose portable radio proclaims all London aflame and the blaze rushing to the sea. It is 1940, after all, and they are Nazi's --- but their songs are jaunty and their money spendable.

Into this unexpected maelstrom steps Hannah Jelkes (Janet Dauray), a world-travelling Nantucket spinster supporting herself and her grandfather (Ernest Stevens) selling watercolors and table-to-table quick-sketch portraits and flattering caricatures. She bills granddad, at a month shy of 98 (and Stevens nails vigorous old-age perfectly) as the oldest practicing poet, still mumbling a new poem in the hope of finishing it and committing it to memory.

With Faulk on one side, Jelkes on the other, and the harpies picking at his soul, Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon is in for a restless night indeed!

Knowing so much about the play shouldn't hinder your appreciation of the beauties of this production; it never hindered mine. It starts in fast, furious exchanges that establish all exposition, rolls ever deeper into character in slower, sharper exchanges, and pauses now and again for poetic memory-monologues for each of the principals, and a rousing electrical (and dramatic) storm ending Act One. The pace gets unhurried as the interplay teases out essences of character. And Iain Bason's lights occasionally isolate a person or a pair to underscore their intimacy. The sound cues (by Brian Rehrig & Joy Kendall) also underscore memories with sounds --- organ pipes, sea surges --- that the playwright never asked for, but I think would have approved. At every step actors take the time to get things, emotionally, exactly right.

There is a point (and this may give away too much) when the teetotal Reverend accepts the widow's plea to take not one but several rum coco's. It comes when his own bus-driver (Tom Lawrence) follows the orders of Jake Latta, another tour-guide come to get the bus-key from Shannon's pocket and drive his ladies through the brochure's promise of the rest of their tour. (You will know only from the program that Latta is indeed a fatter, more nervous Bill Bravo earlier playing one of those Mexicans!) With that first drink it is farewell fantasies, hello compromise.

Does that make "The Night of The Iguana" a tragedy, then?
You decide.

For mine, I see these warring champions of the real and the fantastic washed clean by acceptance of themselves. A phrase that should be carved in glowing script on Tennessee William's tombstone "Nothing human disgusts me" suggest no tragedy here. As these lives remained after refreshing acceptance, I remembered somebody saying once "The readiness is all."

Love,
===Anon.


"The Night of The Iguana" (1 - 10 February)
ARLINGTON FRIENDS OF DRAMA
22 Academy Street, ARLINGTON, MA
1 (781) 646-5922


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