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|A CurtainUp Review
Desperate Conversations: Two One Act Plays by Tennessee Williams
by Kathryn Osenlund
In Desperate Conversations: Two One Act Plays by Tennessee Williams, Random Acts of Theater, the resident theater company, has attempted two difficult Williams plays. The evening was originally billed as Three One-Acts but one of the plays, Portrait of a Madonna, was put on hold.
The two plays performed are I Can't Imagine Tomorrow and A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot. Williams wrote several now all but unknown short plays late his career, when he was at a low ebb emotionally. These two plays come from that period..
I Can't Imagine Tomorrow in which two needy people confront and avoid their problems is desperate indeed. It was written for TV. Jane Stojak's "woman" is perhaps overly histrionic and strident, although one imagines the fine Amanda she would make if The Glass Menagerie were ever offered here. Michael Brumbaugh walks a careful, controlled line in the "man" role, playing a tortured soul in an "ice cream suit" in the throes of a crisis. There are some very nice moments-- a shadow in a doorway, a little Rachmaninoff, as we encounter the juxtaposed characters, one who can't talk and the other who can't stop talking. It is sometimes said that the male characters in these late plays represent Williams himself, although to be even-handed, it is also said that Williams is primarily discovered in his female characters.
Both plays are peopled by sad characters and we move from the depressing desperation of the first to the manic and funny desperation of the second, A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot which Williaams wrote somewhat near the close of his journey from psychological realism to campy burlesque. He introduced it in Chicago as part of a trilogy entitled Tennessee Laughs. That Tennessee sure was a card. This little play laughs its way through an insane asylum with marvelous performances by Carolyn Byrne and Bonnie Grant, who complement each other well as they comically vamp a silent doctor and deliver ridiculously funny, crazy lines with abandon.
This is real theatre on a shoestring budget. The set for both plays consists pretty much of a card table and a couple of chairs, yet the plays do not want for theatricality. Perhaps more thought could be given to staging: Although surrounded on three sides by audience seating, the plaays are staged for viewing from the fron so that those seated on the sides can miss important things. Nevertheless it's a great idea to bring small, obscure, sometimes difficult, underexposed plays to life. Bravo for a wonderful choice of well-performed One-Acts.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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