Tennessee Williams wrote this play about 20 years ago, long after many of his plays had firmly established him as one of America's great playwrights, arguably the greatest, and certainly the master of theatricality and poetry. So although this play is not first-grade Williams, it is still a charming piece that is unmistakably his. It is replete with echoes of such masterpieces as Menagerie, Cat, and Streetcar - with lines like, "Such afflictions are visited upon the gifted," " There is nothing sadder than a woman dining alone," and "Not love in a car but on a hill for the long run of life," and many more.
That having been said, this production is ultimately disappointing. It's a simple enough story. Dorothea, a high-school teacher, has been seduced by her high-school principal in the back of a Flying Cloud but dreams of marrying him. Her spinster roommate, Bodey, tries to keep from her the news that the principal is engaged to marry someone else. Bodey wants Dorothea to marry her dull, cigar-smoking, beer-guzzling brother. Onto the scene comes Helena,a snobbish teacher friend of Dorothea who wants her to leave Bodey and go and live with her in a much better neighborhood ("We must advance our appearances"). Eventually Dorothea is brought down to earth and decides to join Bodey and her brother at a picnic at Creve Coeur (broken heart, get it?). Eventually she realizes,"We must go on, that's all that life seems to offer and demand."
The opening scene had Dorothea doing calisthenics, and these went on interminably. No mood was established in this essentially mood piece. There was an absence of shading in the performances, and the actors all seemed to be afraid of any pauses and silences. A delicate balance between comedy and sadness was never struck. Perhaps the fault was in the casting. Although the addition of a male role (the school principal or Bodey's brother ?) would have strengthened the play by providing real conflict, one can't help thinking that these were all able actors but, with one exception, miscast.
As Dorothea, Cheryl Horne lacked the necessary fragility, dreaminess, and charm that would make her a desirable roommate and account for the fact that everyone seems to be attracted to her. Brandee Graf, as the troubled upstairs neighbor, seemed much too young for the role, and it was unclear whether she was really mentally unbalanced. Ginger Grace played Helena with all the subtlety of a charging rhinoceros. She's a very experienced actress who should know better and, in any case, should have been reined in by the director. Only Blainie Logan, as Bodey, developed a real and sympathetic character; and, despite a rather grating voice and a monotonous delivery, she made the audience care about this spunky little lady.
The set very skillfully represented the vulgarly decorated St.
Louis apartment and the costumes were quite appropriate (nice
work, Meganne George). Light and sound were quite adequate
(Scott Clyve and Randy Morrison, respectively).
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Copyright 1999 Dudley Stone