Saturday, January 7, 2012

Applause! Applause! Review of "Tennessee Williams: An Evening Of Four One Act Plays" at Love Creek Productions by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of "Tennessee Williams: An Evening Of Four One Act Plays" at Love Creek Productions was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume II, Issue 1 (March, 1998) of Applause! Applause!

"Tennessee Williams: An Evening Of Four One Act Plays"
Love Creek Productions (412 West 42nd Street, NYC)
Reviewed 3/13/98 at 8:00 p.m.

Love Creek Productions provides a great service to up-and-coming stars. Talented actors seeking experience both on the stage and off can audition and, if accepted, will be given the opportunity to be cast in a variety of productions, as well as obtaining other experience such as directing. The time commitment required by Love Creek is minimal thus allowing members to seek other work. Although the standards for acceptance into Love Creek are not high, I have been generally pleased with the quality of their productions. In addition, you cannot beat the value you get for your money, especially in light of the recent news that the price of an orchestra ticket to a Broadway show is once again rising. This particular evening, I paid only $12 for the opportunity to see four excellent plays, which boils down to $3 per play. Where in New York can you get a better deal?? The only negative experience I had all evening was when I went to purchase my ticket for the plays. The man who was selling the tickets on behalf of Love Creek had no personality and failed to handle his duties in a friendly and professional manner. This man should not be allowed to interact with the public until somebody properly trains him in social etiquette.

All four of the Tennessee Williams' one-act plays selected for this particular production were expertly directed and superbly acted. In my opinion, they were all well written, except for "Portrait of a Madonna" which is in dire need of a re-write. None of the plays have lost their relevance or emotional impact.

"Lord Byron's Love Letter", directed by Winni Troha, led off the evening. It is about an old woman and a spinster who show strangers a love letter written by Lord Byron in return for small donations which they rely upon to financially survive. The matron and her drunk husband come to hear the spinster read portions of her "grandmother's" diary recalling the feelings she had upon meeting Lord Byron. The couple leaves without making a donation and the kicker is the last line of the play when the old woman, commenting upon the fact that the spinster has dropped the letter, says "you dropped your grandfather's letter." Sue Glausen-Smith, the recipient of the 1997 Leonardo daVinci Award for Best Actress in a Play for "Makes You Want To Go Home And Take A Bath", played the old woman. Ms. Smith gave another brilliant performance, although she was on stage for only a few minutes. Most of the time, she was acting from behind a curtain which is not an easy task. Sue Glausen-Smith is ready to break through to higher ground and to obtaining national recognition for her talents. I don't know exactly how she will achieve this, but I do know that it will not happen by relying exclusively upon Love Creek Productions to feature her talent. Ms. Smith must use her recent award as a wedge to get her into auditions for the roles she deserves. Joanie Schumacher gave a superior performance as the Spinster and Winni Troha was excellent as the interested and amazed Matron. Tor Stave, played an adequate drunk, but the role did not permit him to exhibit any hidden talents he may have.

"Moony's Kid Don't Cry", directed by Cynthia Granville-Callahan, is a play about Moony, a restless man tired of the daily drudgery of working in a factory, and his wife Jane, with whom he recently had a baby. Moony is considering leaving his wife and new-born child in order to hop a freight train to a freer existence that would allow him to appreciate life and "look at the stars" without feeling restless and trapped. Just before leaving, his wife wraps up his main possession, the infant, and gives it to him saying that if he is leaving, she will have to go to work to survive and that she won't be able to be bothered with the child. The point is made and Moony decides to stay and fulfill his responsibilities to his family. Francis Callahan, who plays Moony, is a powerful actor with a great stage presence. Although not conventionally handsome, I found him quite attractive, especially given his piercing eyes and his rugged outdoors blue-collar boy-next-door body. Laura Shapanus, who played Jane, was dutifully homely and was very convincing in her role as the wife who cared more about her child than she did for herself.

"The Long Goodbye", directed by Artemis Preeshl, is about a writer named Joe, who is moving out of the apartment where he grew up with his sister, Myra, and his mother. As four movers take out the furniture and his friend, Silva, stands by, Joe experiences flashbacks to interactions he had with his sister and his mother in the apartment before his sister moved away and before his mother committed suicide to save her children from spending their inheritance on her medical bills. The play was so named because Joe, while reflecting, says to Silva "that's what life is -- just one long good-bye to one thing after another until one day, you say good-bye to yourself." I was brought to tears more than once during this performance. John Stanbury, who played Joe, has a great future as an actor. He is good-looking and talented which is not a bad combination. Joseph Arnone was superbly proficient as Joe's Italian buddy, Silva. Elysabeth Kleinhaus played the perfectly supportive, caring, loving mother which enabled me to tap into the feelings of love I have for my own mother, as well as the love she has shown me throughout my life. Laura Stevens, who played Myra, was perfectly cast for the role of the slightly slutty working class woman wishing to better her station in life. Christopher Noll portrayed Bill, Myra's sexually aggressive upper class preppy date. He was born to play that role and definitely should be cast in any future sequels to the movie "Metropolitan." The movers, Bob Handler, Greg Kalfayan and Frank Marzullo were all proficient in there roles, but Brant Spencer stood out as someone I would like to see again in a more substantive role.

"Portrait of a Madonna", directed by Whitney Chaiet, is about Lucretia Collins, a southern lady, who calls her landlord, Mr. Abrams, to tell him that a man has repeatedly broken into her apartment to "indulge his senses with me." Mr. Abrams, realizing that Ms. Collins has finally gone off her rocker, calls the doctor and a nurse to take her away to a mental institution. Meanwhile, he sends the Porter and the Elevator Boy up to her apartment to watch over her until they come. The Porter is respectful to the lady as she recalls aspects of her life and reveals that the man visiting her is an old flame who married someone else. The Elevator Boy is disrespectful to the old woman and makes fun of her. Eventually, Mr. Abrams comes with the doctor and a nurse to take her away. None of the characters written into this play have any depth to them and the boring monologues written for the main character, Lucretia Collins, are unnecessarily long. Despite these problems, Ginger Chapman did the very best she could with the character of Lucretia Collins. Ms. Chapman is an excellent actress and was totally on target in her portrayal of this pitiful southern lady. Peter Pecora was very believable as the sympathetic landlord, Mr. Abrams. Barbara Sauermann and Joel Steven Horwitz were proficient in their small roles as the Nurse and Doctor, respectively. The interactions between Daniel Brennan, as the Elevator Boy, and C. Richard Cranwell, Jr., as the Porter were unbelievable and did not come off well. C. Richard Cranwell, Jr., who I have seen and liked in other productions, was totally miscast in the role of the Porter. The Porter should have been someone much older whose age and experience would have caused him to have more patience with Lucretia Collins and more authority in dealing with the Elevator Boy, who at first wanted to take some records out of the apartment to play for his girlfriend. As relative contemporaries, it was not believable that the Elevator Boy would have listened to the Porter's instructions not to steal the records. Although Daniel Brennan may be a talented actor, better direction could have improved his performance by making him a bit more aggressive in his movements and actions throughout the apartment. I think it would have worked best had the Elevator Boy been more of a disrespectful, cocky out of control youth, and the Porter, an adult with the power to command respect. Despite these criticisms, the memorable performance of Ginger Chapman as Lucretia Collins made my watching this play well worth the time and effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment