Sunday, September 23, 2012

Something Wild

By deciding to present in one evening three grueling Tennessee Williams one-acts--27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Hello From Bertha, and This Property Is Condemned--director Ken Schatz has set a major challenge for himself and the Pook's Hill theatre company. Unfortunately, in Something Wild, Schatz et al. only intermittently meet that challenge.
Brian Gianci, Samantha Steinmetz
Photo: Cecilia Senocak
The most successful of the three plays is 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, which is anchored by a brave, moving, odd performance by Samantha Steinmetz as Flora, a none-too-bright woman caught between two manipulative, angry, and violent men. Hello From Bertha, more of an exercise or character study than a play, feels endless; nothing happens, nothing changes, and the cast does not make it compelling. This Property Is Condemned is also a character study and also not particularly compelling. However, the character has echos of Blanche DuBois, and it is interesting to watch Williams riff on his themes of loneliness and loss.

Something Wild's main problem is that these three plays are too much for one evening, particularly without an intermission. 27 Wagons Full of Cotton delivers a large helping of anxiety and horror, and the other two plays, although less-well-written and less-well-acted, also serve up a tremendous amount of pain. In addition, the latter two plays are too similar in structure, both being virtual monologues by unhappy, hopeless women. After a while, the production begins to feel assaultive. When the evening was over, I felt like I needed an emergency comedy.

Another issue is that the theatre has audience on three sides but the plays are directed only for the people in the middle. For extended periods of time, actors speak too softly, block each other from view, or never face one or both sides. This is disrespectful of two thirds of the audience.

Something Wild does have one important achievement to its credit; by and large, the evening captures the Tennessee Williams-ness of the plays.

(press ticket; second row center)

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