Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tea And Sympathy

photo: Dan Cordle

Robert Anderson's 1953 drama is pre-tolerance: the two characters who defend the sissyboy protagonist from widespread bullying do so only because they are sure he isn't "a queer." The play, thought to be intended as a cautionary tale about McCarthyism, doesn't let us believe for long that the lad in question is anything but a painfully sensitive hetero wallflower who is being tormented based on lurid gossip. The drama's omnipresent homophobia is a product of its time, and the most interesting thing that the Keen Company have done with it is to put it on without irony for today's audiences, affording us an interesting peek at the sensibilities of yesteryear. Even on those terms, the production doesn't fully engage: the staging is often counterproductive, and the actors don't seem to have been guided toward creating the needed atmosphere of stiff formality. Excepting that, I thought the three main performances (by Dan McCabe, Heidi Armbruster and Mark Setlock) were all at least quite good and that one supporting performance (by Brandon Espinoza, as girlyboy Tom's star athlete roommate) was best of all.

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