Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: Tennessee Deep Cuts

The Tennessee Williams canon of work is stellar but the same few plays seem to continually receive life. When the deep cuts get an opportunity to return to the stage, it's appreciated. In Nu.ance Theatre's latest production, directors John DeSotelle and Judith Feingold offer two Williams' one acts, This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. Is there a reason why these plays remain seldom produced? Are they difficult? Are they just not that good? Nu.ance Theatre goes on a mission to prove their worth despite getting the label of unactable.
First up is the youthful two-hander, This Property is Condemned. In This Property is Condemned, a young girl and boy meet on the railroad tracks and discovery the troubles of poverty and loneliness. Orphaned Willie, a broken belle, walks the tracks with her damaged doll when innocent school-skipping Tom and his kite find her. What ensues is the discovery of Willie's awful life, being thrust into adolescence alone and her ensuing reputation. Emily Desotelle as Willie takes on a mini Blanche type role, decked out with debutante attire and of course, pearls. The majority of the piece focused on Willie giving Alex Scully's Tom little to do but help propel Willie's tale forward. Desottelle has a youthful charm to her so some of Willie’s exclamations are jarring. But that’s the story that Williams’ wrote. Simplicity is key in You-Shin Chen’s scenic design. With a stunning piece of art that captures the lights wonderfully and the imagination of a long train track, the less is more approach allowed for the astute focus. Jude Hinojosa was able to capture the essence of the South in Willie but something seemed off in Tom’s attire.
On a fitting night when the rain and thunder pours down on a muggy New York summer eve, Talk to Me Like the Rain, and Let Me Listen gets a natural soundtrack against the scene. Talk to Me is certainly a showcase of Williams' poetic style. The piece follows a couple who are disconnected in time and place. The piece is virtually broken into two distinct monologues, one for Man and one for Woman. When the other is not speaking, the other is isolated to either the bed or the chair. Due to the nature of the piece, a trouble arises. A natural divide by both character and actor. Poetic monologues can sometimes be difficult to find the truth against the naturalistic scene. Annie R. Such as Woman found some stunning moments in her silence but her wordy address was a bit repetitive. Erik Endlsey as Man lost authenticity due to the dialect. Such's voice came natural, Endsley’s was a bit forced. Chen’s design for this one act was simple as well but added the layer of marvel. The other added difficulty the piece provided was the barrier caused by the rain effect.  At first, it offered a stunning visual. As it continued on throughout, occasionally picking up tempo, it caused a bit of a distraction. With the monotony of language and southing sound of rained, it’s easy to check out. And with the rain in between the actors and audience, the disconnection theme continues. Rather than a wall, perhaps a simple window with the rain streaming down could have done the trick.
Nu.ance Theatre’s resurrection of the Williams’ one acts is noble and fitting to be paired with one another. They both offer further proof of the brilliance that is Tennessee Williams. The attraction is the language, not the wow factor. It was proven in This Property is Condemned. When the wow got in the way, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, it diminished the beauty.