Four By Tenn
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Fran and Frank Hilgenberg
Presenting at the Fred Stone Theatre
Winter Park, FL
There’s some bad juju surrounding Tennessee Williams short plays; today one of the shorts couldn’t run due to cast illness. That’s what happened at a similar production a few months ago at Queen’s Head. Makes you wonder…
But what DID happen was interesting as always. In “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore (Rochelle Curbow Wheeler) complains to her landlady there are flying cockroaches in her room. Her landlady, Mrs. Wire (Katrina Tharin), retorts “Where’s my rent money?” and “What do you expect in the French Quarter?” and more pointedly “You’ll die from drink before cockroaches.” Faded fortunes are a perennial Williams topic, and here they are explored quickly and efficiently. Mrs. H-M muses about a rubber plantation in Brazil and why her quarterly income check hasn’t arrived; her fellow tenant arrives to defend her financial honor, but he, too, is broke. They never actually get kicked out, but they do discuss her plantation and its manor house with a commanding view of the Mediterranean Sea. On a clear day you can see the white cliffs of Dover sparkling in the distance. Life is all a fantasy on some level in William’s world, so why not go for the gusto? Mrs. H-M has; its how she supports herself. That and gentlemen callers.
“This Property is Condemned” has more dissolution, but in a sadder, more poignant dimension. Little Miss Willie (Winona Wiley) clings to a house that ought to be pushed over; everyone who used to live there died or ran away before they could get stuck with the liability. She carefully explains this to equally young Tom (Wyatt Rucks); he’s truant as well, but at least has a home to go to. Miss Willy has only one salable skill: her youth, and that may not survive the second act. Heck, even Tom is asking her to dance for him. Kids those days…
Lastly we explore “The Good Neighbor Policy” in “27 Wagons of Cotton.” This begins as an economic fairly tale with Jake Meighan (Skinner) setting fire to a competing cotton gin, then agreeing to process the cotton for the owner of the smoldering ruin, Silva Vicarro (Frank Casado). Meighan’s wife Flora (Brenna Arden) tires of Jake’s simple brutality; she even resists Silva’s advances for half the the play before joining Mrs. H-M as woman of negotiable honor. In the end, this story of sweaty dripping passion balances out; Mr. Vicarro gives as good as he got. In fact, he may bring ALL his business over to the Meighan’s.
As Theatre Downtown looks for a new home this is only an echoey waypoint, but it’s a space that is a fair match to the dark and brooding short plays Mr. Williams has to offer.
For more information on Theatre Downtown and its searh for a permanent new home, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net