Theater has existed as long as we have existed. From the first night when Caveperson “A” told a story to his/her fellow Cavepeople to keep their minds off of the saber tooth tigers roaming in the night – to last night’s performance of Haunted Alligators by Tennessee Williams at the Manka Palace Theater [EDITOR’S NOTE: The classic film version of Haunted Alligators can be seen this month on Manka Classic Movies].
I can now say that I have been to the top of the mountain.
I have seen the face of God.
I wonder how I continue in a career of theatrical criticism when everything that is to come will pale in comparison to perfection. PERFECT perfection.
Redundant? No. I simply try to hammer home how amazing this show is to your collective mortal minds.
Better yet, make your way to the theater to see this show in person. There are some who may say that I’m going overboard (and that I’ve been going overboard recently) and to that I say “NAY!”
Dear Reader, it is that we are living in one of the greatest eras of theater to exist since the Dawn of Man. How do I know how theater was at the Dawn of Man? I don’t. I just know that I don’t see too many revivals of Caveperson theater, and that is all that I need to know.
The show opened innocently enough. We find Chest (Zachary Tisdale who I had the pleasure to interview last week) and Livy (Nikki Abercrombie) sneaking toward the swamp shack, their sanctuary on the bayou. They are very much in the throes of love. And they are a comely couple. The fire between the two was apparent before they even began to speak.
Sitting in the fifth row, I started to sweat. The sweat of torment and lust. There was much declaiming of mutual attraction which was sadly derailed when Livy brought up her upcoming nuptials to the local plantation bigwig and patriarch of the Fatang clan, Large Willie.
The next scene opened up on the sumptuous Fatang mansion, known as Kudzu Manor.
Beautiful Charlotte (a radiant Gretchen Van Winkle) childhood friend of Livy, flits about the stage preparing for a grand wedding – all while taking care of her dimwit brother, Clayton (Michael Egan – almost unrecognizable from his last role as the union rabble rouser Frank Little in the Tony Award winning drama Butte: The Story Of A Hole).
Here the play takes an interesting turn; instead of plowing straight into the wedding, Tennessee Williams chose to introduce us to Large Wanda, who is the mother of Large Willie. She takes the dimwit Clayton aside and in a hauntingly beautiful scene (a once in a lifetime performance by Carolly Russ who was almost as stupendous in Mother Was A Ho And Custer Is Still Dead) tells Clayton of the horrors of marriage in the South. Clayton, oblivious, drools as if lost in a dream. A dimwit dream. Mesmerizing.
Then it is time for the wedding “celebration” and we are introduced to Large Willie (played with emotional intensity that almost knocked me to the floor by the multi-talented Leonard Menzies.
Ladies and gentlemen, we now know that he’s not just a comic juggler and fire dancer!). It is quite obvious who the life force is that steers life at Kudzu Manor. Large Willie takes over the stage and lays claim to his reluctant bride, Livy, as Charlotte and Clayton watch – both in tears, but not tears of joy. No, the tears of watching a friend being sold into indentured servitude.
In a horrible and soul crushing moment we see Chest looking in through the window – he howls, and then RIPS OFF HIS SHIRT revealing the pectoral muscles that I spoke of so eloquently last week. They are still delectable. His pecs, I mean. Yum.
Three years pass and Large Willie and Livy are found living in a domestic nightmare. Large Willie has large that he is dying from a lifetime of dipsomania and he takes out his anger on Livy as well as the servants of the house. He also knows that Livy has, and will always, love Chest.
Large Willie, on a downward spiral of self-pity and jealousy, prepares to leave for a weekend of whoring and debauchery in New Orleans. He is interrupted by Clayton, who droolingly mumbles something about seeing someone “creepin’ around the women down by the swamp shack.” Resigned to his fate and drinking heavily, Large Willie grabs his gun and makes his way toward destiny.
Just know that Tennessee Williams is spinning in his grave – with joy! Joy! JOY!!!
I must catch my breath.
Kyrle Lendhoffer – Behind The Proscenium