by Lynn on March 10, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Hart House Theatre. Written by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Jeremy Hutton. Set by Scott Penner. Costumes by Melanie McNeill. Lighting by Dominic Manca. Starring: David Ferry and Allegra Fulton.

Produced by Hart House Theatre.

Apologies for this late review. The show closes today, March 10. It’s hard to review because the acting is uneven—being a mix of two notable professional actors, and the rest of the cast who work as semi-pros and students, there is no comparison.

It’s the story of defrocked minister, Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, who is attracted to very young women and alcohol with disastrous results. He has been hounded out of his church because of inappropriate behaviour with a young woman. He ekes out a living by leading tours of southern women to the colourful world of Mexico.

On this tour everything goes wrong. He had a fling with a young woman on the tour and the news got out to the senior woman of the group. He needs a drink badly. He leads them to Maxine Faulk’s seedy hotel. He does it more for his own solace than anything else. By the end of his play, he will be fired even from this job.

Maxine has her own problems. Her husband just died, although she doesn’t seem to be grieving too much. She finds comfort in the many and various young bucks who work for her. She and Shannon are kindred spirits.

There is also painter Hannah Jelkes a lonely soul who travels with her aged poet grandfather. They scratch out a living with Hannah doing portraits and her grandfather reciting poetry. They are the quintessence of buttoned up, genteel respectability.

Under the best of conditions THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA by Tennessee Williams is a challenging play. There are the usual themes of damaged souls trying to get by in a hard, difficult world. The hard-living, inappropriate-loving Shannon who is macho and fragile in the same body. Maxine is the personification of steamy sexuality. And then there is the almost Madonna-like (not HER, the other one) saintly quality of Hannah, well it’s hard to do even on professional terms.

This is a wonderful opportunity to see David Ferry play Shannon in his ballsy, desperate, attractive glory. His eyes gleam in fright and uncertainty. Trying to solve insolvable problems haunt him. There are the yammering women who are not happy with him or this seedy tour. There is the young woman who is pursuing him and putting him in jeopardy for that. This is a strong, fearless performance of a man falling apart with no place really to find solace.

As Maxine, Allegra Fulton matches Ferry in ability, smarts and intellect. She is feisty, sensually full-bodied in every scene and second. There is vulnerability that lurks, jealousy, impatience for those silly women, and desperation for physical gratification where ever she can get it.

I won’t comment on the rest of the cast because as I said initially, they are not in the same professional class as Ferry and Fulton and I won’t lower the standard to comment.

Director Jeremy Hutton and his design team have established that steamy, seedy world of this play. Colourful, lush, hot, sticky and sad. Hutton stages the play well, but I wish he would put the breaks on some of the screaming of some of the actors.

Also, he falls into the trap of many young directors who want to make their mark and establish themselves as creative directors. He puts ‘stuff’ into the production where there isn’t any. I speak of his penchant for freezing a scene, shining a light on a character along with a sound-effect, as if to underscore an entrance to make it obvious that this is ‘IMPORTANT’. When Shannon arrives, a cold-white light pours down on him as he stands frozen, announcing this is an IMPORTANT CHARACTER and an IMPORTANT MOMENT. Hutton does this a few other times. Annoying. It’s not in the play. Williams knows how to suggest importance. This stuff from Hutton is unnecessary and clutters up his production. And he’s done it before in Macbeth and Richard III. Enough already. “Just” do the play and find the best way of realizing the author’s intent.

Two terrific performances. The production was ‘ok’. Not really a ringing endorsement, but I was glad to see Ferry and Fulton in roles perhaps they would ordinarily not be cast in.

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA plays at Hart House Theatre until tonight, March 10.

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