Three Plays by Williams
At Agassiz Theatre
Faced with a temporary dearth of student plays, the New Theatre Workshop has transferred its experimenting from the realm of writing to the realm of theatre techniques. Three one-act plays by Tennessee Williams provide fare for the Workshop's first program, which surprisingly enough, offers little in the way of innovation.
This Property Is Condemned, first of the three works, poses a difficult problem of interpretation which Director Colgate Salsbury fails to solve. Williams probably intended to give this sketch an ethereal quality. Yet the conversation between two young misfits, as they walk along the tracks of a Mississippi railroad, lends itself to this treatment only at the risk of becoming overly romantic. Instead, the Workshop performs it with chatty overtones, emphasizing the juvenile character of the leads.
Because Williams puts mature words in the mouths of babes however, this interpretation seems incongruous. In the Workshop's version, Willie could well be another Becky Thatcher, except that she is given to mild oaths and strange aspirations. And Tom, her companion, looks down at his shoes during painful moments with all the finesse of This Property Is Condemned, however, is not due entirely to the director or to the two leads, Lucy Barry and Zandy Moore. The play was a poor choice to begin with.
The Lady of Larkspur Lotion is a better example of Williams and receives a more polished performance. Illustrating the author's favorite theme of the decadent southern belle, the sketch tempers its seediness with fine touches of whimsy. Elinor Fuchs, as Mrs. Hardwick-Moore, plays an earlier outline of Streetcar's Blanche Dubois, handling both her southern accent and temperament without extravagance. Equally adept is Bob Golden, as The Writer. Patricia Leatham is perhaps too intense for a landlady, yet her performance does not mar the best production on the Workshop's program.
Balancing these two prose sketches is The Purification, a verse play which offers the only real chance for experimental work. Williams, in combining wild imagery, a guitar player, and a chorus, has attempted to give unwarranted significance to absurd instance of human frailty. Set in the western deserts, the play takes the form of a trial in which incest and murder provide the basis for quantities of poetry.
Occasionally, The Purification's copious imagery and symbolism become almost unmanageable, and its full-blown phrases tend to give the actors every appearance of being carried away by the sheer beauty of their own performances. Yet the Workshop's players skip over the more leaden passages with a minimum of difficulty. Hal scott, as the Son, is the most outstanding member of the cast, although too often he chokes dramatically at the end of climactic lines. Don Richards, as The Rancher, and Mary Anne Goldsmith, as the Indian girl Luisa, provide competent support.
Perhaps the main complaint to be leveled at the Workshop's first production is the general dreariness of the selections, although both The Purification and The Lady of Larkspur Lotion contain excellent moments. If Williams is hard to take in such large doses, however, the Workshop has demonstrated its ability to handle difficult material. The three plays, which will receive their final two performances today, are a promising start for the HDC.