Review: The Tennessee Williams Project (The Hypocrites)

| January 27, 2014
Patrick Gannon in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)        
      
Tennessee Williams Project

Written by Tennessee Williams 
Directed and Devised by Matt Hawkins
at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map)
thru Mar 2  |  tickets: $28   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     


  
  

Intoxicating journey through modern master’s lesser-knowns

     

Patrick Gannon, Mary Redmon and Joe Wiens in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)

    
The Hypocrites presents
    
The Tennessee Williams Project

Review by Clint May 

The very first play I saw was Williams’ Summer and Smoke at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It left an impression that, were I writing my autobiography, I would cite as the first step down the road to a lifelong love of theater. As such, I tend to have a slight bias towards his productions in that I tend to go a little harder on those producing them than most. An opportunity to see three of his least known one acts was a chance too good to pass up, and I was relieved to see that under director Matt Hawkins’ imaginative interpretation and The Hypocrites’ execution, The Tennessee Williams Project is a thrilling dive into the deep end for both fans and inductees to Williams’ mordant world.

Patrick Gannon in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)Ingeniously utilizing Chopin Theatre’s basement like an amusement park ride guiding us through dioramas, we are moved through three very different spaces brilliantly devised by Dan Stratton. Beginning in what is typically the foyer to the main downstairs stage, we are introduced to the transvestite  “Candy,” (Patrick Gannon, in his best performance of the three) a quintessentially Williams character from And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens. A successful interior designer with a home in the French Quarter, she’s at long last lured Karl (Joseph Wiens) – a young, sexually confused hunk – back to her mansion to begin a threateningly seductive dance of feints and thrusts. Her ‘success’ is Pyrrhic as she proves Marlowe’s axiom “What nourishes me destroys me” distressingly true.

Next we are cajoled by a boisterous madame into the next space, a disconcerting shift from the luxuriousness of New Orleans to a terrifying attic for The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde, part of a series of comic shorts known as the Guignol. The change in venue also represents a decided break in style, as Williams goes all in for a Beckettian horror show. Mint (Gordon) is a paraplegic trapped in the attic and dependent upon hanging rings and ladders to maneuver. Madame Le Monde (the sublimely dark Mary Redmon) cruelly rations his food and allows her deformed sons to regularly rape him, sometimes with astringent as lubricant. On this day former classmate Hall (Eric Leonard) is visiting to set Mint into an absurdist repeating motif reminiscent of “Tantalus”. While Hall blithely munches on the meager biscuits and tea, Mint crawls upon the floor continually begging for access to the rings to which Hall occasionally obliges by placing him at the point furthest from the table. Things quickly continue spiraling into greater heights of cruelty until you begin to wonder if this particular one-act inspired Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story”.

Joe Wiens and Patrick Gannon in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis) Patrick Gannon in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)
Patrick Gannon in Tennessee Williams Project Mary Redmon, Patrick Gannon and Joe Wiens in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)

Next we are ushered into an antiseptic hospital room for a sliver of hope in Williams’ brutish world in The Big Game. Young Dave (Gannon) is bedridden, counting the days until death, while witnessing the hale and hearty football player Tony (Wiens) get ready to leave after a two-month convalescence. At the same time, Walton (Christopher Meister) is arriving for a “ticklish” brain surgery. A veteran of WWII, Walton waxes philosophical about seeing the stars in the night as he looked up from the trenches.

A through-line of thematic repetition links these one-acts that are hallmarks of Williams frequently autobiographical style. Each features a homosexual with a congenital disorder (arrhythmia, paralysis, atrial fibrillation) being abused by either his own poor choices, outside cruelty or an indifferent universe. Gannon is the true standout here at the core of it all—the embodiment of all things Tennessean, riding that tenebrous line between frail and melodramatic with seemingly effortless aplomb. When paired with the equally adept Wiens, it’s a dream team of casting. Everyone is beautifully pitched, and this is a case where the support team is just as visibly fine-tuned as the actors in elevating these obscure works to a triptych of some import.

Fans of Williams will note many commonalities between these works and his more popular fare while also noticing how these go deeper into his infamous heart of darkness. In some ways, this makes them feel fresher than his more famous works because they were so ahead of their time. Unflinchingly honest and brilliantly illuminated by The Hypocrites, this journey is not to be missed.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

The Tennessee Williams Project continues through March 2nd at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division (map), with performances Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $28, and are available online through Tix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at The-Hypocrites.com(Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission)

Joe Wiens, Osiris Khepera and Patrick Gannon in The Hypocrites' "The Tennessee Williams Project", directed and devised by Matt Hawkins. (photo credit: Matthew Gregory Hollis)

Photos by Matthew Gregory Hollis 


     

artists

cast

Patrick Gannon, Osiris Khepera, Eric Leonard, Christopher Meister, Mary Redmon, Joseph Wiens.

behind the scenes

Matt Hawkins (director), Stacy Stoltz (assistant director), Dan Stratton (set designer) Alison Siple (costume designer), William Kirkham (lighting designer), Heath Hays (sound designer), Kitty Campbell (props designer), Amanda Clayton (production manager), Nicole Kutcher (stage manager), Angela Sandall (assistant fight choreographer), Adam Goldstein (dialect coach), Matthew Gregory Hollis (photos)

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Category: Chopin Theatre, Clint May, Hypocrites Theatre, New Work, Tennessee Williams

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