Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tennessee topless

Erin Markey and Alan Brinks in Green Eyes.
I did want to mention that I managed to catch Company One's import (by the New York company "The Kindness") of the recently-discovered Tennessee Williams one-act Green Eyes, at the newly-refurbished Ames Hotel over the weekend.  And I'm not quite sure what the fuss has been about regarding this production.

Well, actually, I do understand what the fuss has been about; the audience is in close quarters (in a hotel room) with a hot topless lady and a ripped guy in boxers for almost an hour, as they declaim bad Tennessee Williams.  Now I want to state up front that I am all for hanging out in hotel rooms with attractive, half-naked young people; I wish I got to do that more often.  (Or ever.)  So in one way, the production was definitely a success.  (And I think the straight men in the audience were secretly giving it a standing ovation throughout.)

If only the play were a success - but alas, it's clear why this one wound up at the bottom of Tennessee's underwear drawer.  In it, he gropes about in an effort to extend his usual format of sexual tease (and  hysteria) into the political realm of the Vietnam War and its associated issues.  And I suppose you can't blame him for trying; but seriously - can sexual hysteria explain everything?  Somehow I don't think so, and it looks like in the end Tennessee agreed.  If only he'd found some way to align his usual concerns with a new dramatic mode (as he successfully found common ground with the Theatre of the Absurd in the far-superior Rooming House of Madame LeMonde), the play might still be of interest.  But no dice; and  Green Eyes doesn't even offer much in the way of Williams' distinctive dramatic language - and in case you haven't noticed, basically all the Williams plays that have remained securely in the canon are distinguished by the fact that in them his poetic cadence is at its peak.

In the end, the play (it's really more of a sketch) is basically a riff on the amusingly dirty-minded, but artistically only so-so movie Baby Doll (which in turn was derived from the so-so 27 Wagons Full of Cotton), so it's no surprise that the lovely Erin Markey capably channels Carroll Baker from that film, only in air quotes and slow motion (which helps to stretch out the running time).  She does manage to convey more real minx, however, in her languid drawl than we've seen in other local Williams productions, which is of some formal interest (actresses take note - Blanche and Maggie should have claws like these, too).  And she's totally un-selfconscious about being half naked throughout, which I'm sure many in the audience appreciated.  As her tormented husband (a soldier on leave from "Waakow"), Alan Brinks fares less well, however - he throws himself into the part, but it's terribly underwritten, and all but leaps from one overwrought reaction to another, and so the performance comes off as forced.  (Here you think director Travis Chamberlain might have lent Brinks a helping hand, but again, no dice.)

Then again, the script is such lurid malarkey - a split condom in the toilet, big bruises on bare breasts, plus maybe a rape, or a seduction, by a stud with "HUGE green eyes!" - that I'm not sure what more I could have reasonably expected.  Add a whole lotta potted palms, and sound effects from the Tet Offensive, and all you need to make this turkey fly is a big bag of popcorn with extra butter.

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