Little delusions

Three by Tennessee

By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Stephen Capone
Whirlybird Theater Ensemble
Theater 22
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Hot, steamy, sweltering… Not only were those the current weather conditions, but it’s also the perfect way to describe the plays of Tennessee Williams. The master of delicate decadence was revived once again in a three-pack of short plays. Unfortunately, most of the efforts invested in director Stephen Capone’s production of Three by Tennessee for The Whirlybird Theatre Company failed to make a lasting impression.

The trio of one-acts have several other things in common – they are all early works of the playwright, they each show delusional characters conjuring up an imagined reality, and they all end on an unresolved, bittersweet note. Williams sets up interesting situations and discourses in the pieces; however, in this presentation at least the dialogs were not as effective or moving as planned.

First up on the bill was This Property is Condemned, focusing on a destitute girl and a schoolboy she meets. The young lady, Willie (Catherine Mueller), has a fancy dress and a tiara but spends her time dragging around a beat-up doll and walking along abandoned train tracks. The young man, Tom (Christopher Burke), is covered with dirt but kind enough to listen to the girl’s sad story. She lives alone in a condemned property, but fantasizes about entertaining the suitors who used to court her late sister. Mueller displayed some of the girl’s conflicted emotions but seemed too carefree at times. Burke was more successful at giving his character a likeable, laid-back quality that seemed closer to Williams's original intentions.

Next up was Hello from Bertha, which turned out to be not a very welcome visitor. Essentially a character sketch of a disturbed (and drunk) prostitute named Bertha (Meg Asaro), the piece was sloppily staged by Capone. The titular character wallowed around in a bed while two housemates tried in vain to straighten her up. Asaro was over the top in her role of the desperate woman who longs to contact a former beau, juxtaposed with the more realistic portrayals of Raegan Klein as a brothel denizen and Mariela Manso as a softspoken maid.

Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen is a poetic ode to a disintegrating relationship. This time out, though, it was directed by Capone at a snail’s pace. Part of the problem was that the director himself played the man in the piece, so it may have been difficult for him to gauge the play’s timing. Heidi Wallace found a well of emotion in the role of his reflective companion. Also, Williams’s cryptic conversation doesn’t fully illuminate the couple’s plight.

The uncredited costumes were credible, and the lighting and sound were minimal and unobtrusive.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac