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A CurtainUp Review
In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel

As for dying for me, I prefer someone living for me.— Miriam.

Laura Siner as Miriam and Niall O'Hegarty as Mark
Laura Siner as Miriam and Niall O'Hegarty as Mark (Photo: Joe Bly)
The White Horse Theater Company deserves credit for creating an artistic mission that included the production of classics, major and minor. It is in the spirit of this mission that the group has mounted this rarely produced work by Tennessee Williams. The experimental full-length play was written at a time when Williams was barely capable of completing a one-act. The year was 1968 and he booze and drugs were beginning to take their toll, but through it all he kept writing.

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel had its premiere at the Eastside Playhouse in 1969.
Although not a dramatic success, it was successful in its experimental use of language— an odd, and as far as I know, unique system of truncated speech, whereby sentences end with prepositions and rarely contain objects. ("The bar is closed until." . . ."The constant unbearable of.") On the stage, this technique is remarkably fluid and the words' meaning is surprisingly easy to grasp. It creates somewhat the same effect achieved by directors who have had actors step on each other's lines.

While the title sounds quite exotic Williams did little with it. We are unmistakably in Williams' world, but it is doubtful that a ticket to Japan would get you there. The first act's exchanges between Miriam (Laura Siner) and Bar-Man (Toshiji Takeshima) hint at cross-cultural themes and one stays alert for an early version of Lost in Translation. However, we soon realize that while the characters are lost, being in Tokyo has nothing to do with it.
Patrick Larsen's set is just right for a hotel bar in modern Tokyo. He obviously know that Tokyo bars serving Western-style cocktails prefer Western interior design and has fashioned a suitably generic 1960s look. Incidental music by Joe Gianono follows suit with a sound that might be heard in a Tokyo bar, but wouldn't turn heads in Cleveland or San Jose.

The play is really an extended monologue for Miriam who plays a familiar Williams type. The big difference between her and characters like Blanche Dubois or Hanna Jelkes is that she is hard to like. Her relentless harassment of the Bar-Man creates an oppressive atmosphere. She is obnoxious and, in today's world, would be arrested as a sex offender. By the second act, she is calling herself four-letter words and the audience must finally admit that she is little more than what she says. Her insistence on going to Kyoto without her neurotic and by now sick husband (Niall O'Hegarty) has none of the metaphorical resonance associated with Chekhov's Moscow. After seeing Miriam give the Bar-Man a working over, we understand what poor Mark has been through in fourteen years of marriage.

The production does little to smooth the hard edges of this monotonous play. The Bar-Man is the only character who doesn't get on one's nerves, although he's virtually silent in n the second act. Director Cyndy A. Marion directs the first act well and makes the most of Williams' often funny lines. However, the by-play with Miriam's mirror, the Bar-Man's over the shoulder cocktail shaking, the off-stage party of diplomats which all create a nice physicality, largely disappears in the second act.

Hannah Jelkes in Night of the Iguana declares that she can accept and forgive all human faults except cruelty. In Miriam, Williams created a character whose behavior strains toward the cruel and is thus hard to like or to watch.

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel
Playwright: Tennessee Williams
Directed by Cyndy A. Marion

Cast: Laura Siner as Miriam; Toshiji Takeshima as Bar-Man; Larissa Laurel as Hawaiian Lady; Niall O'Hegarty as Mark; Greg Homison as Leonard.
Sets: Patrick Larsen
Costumes: David B. Thompson
Lights: Debra Leigh Siegal
Incidental Music: Joe Gianono
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, with one intermission
White Horse Theater at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, 312 West 36th Street; 212-592-3706.
From 2/02/07 to 2/18/07; opening 2/02/07
Performance schedule Reviewed by David Lohrey, on February 6, 2007
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

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