David Ferry (photo credit: Jaclyn Zaltz)
The Tennessee Waltz
Hart House delights with Williams
by Gregory W. Bunker
Tennessee Williams’s Night of the Iguana may be a rather pessimistic view of how to handle life’s twists and turns, but it is hard to be anything but optimistic about this Hart House production. Upon the fade-in of upbeat, softly static ‘40s music, the audience is treated to a superbly designed cabana scene (Scott Penner) complete with cleverly screened rooms, a well-used hammock, and a middle-ground view heading down to the beach. It is in this rustic, charming setting that director Jeremy Hutton unravels Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon: a down-and-out American “man of God” who struggles to come to terms with his past and, finally, his nature in the sweltering heat of Mexico.
Combined with the excellent production, the performances by the entire cast are strong and balanced and afford the audience the ability to follow the story carefully, undistracted.
As guests of the inn come and go, we see Shannon (David Ferry) reprimanded by an intriguing array of characters ranging from the harangues of the humorously distraught and unforgiving Miss Fellows (Lada Darewych) to the calculations of the calm, quiet, and complex character of Hannah Jelkes (Kelly Bolt). Slowly Shannon accepts that nothing can be done about his indiscretions and falling out with the church, and that—after coaching and heart-felt stories from Miss Jelkes—he must eventually settle for something or someone to ground him in life. Through his struggle we also see the directions of the guests’ and innkeeper’s lives come into question. If there is one part of the play that comes across as too direct perhaps it is the time dedicated to the analogy of the leashed iguana, which makes too explicit the notion of freedom against the constraints of social norms that is so much more subtly suggested by the varied generations, cultures, and lifestyles colliding onstage.
Combined with the excellent production, the performances by the entire cast are strong and balanced and afford the audience the ability to follow the story carefully, undistracted. David Ferry’s Shannon provides a passionate and paranoid junction for the drama to build and unfold. Allegra Fulton and Kelly Bolt are the impressive, constant counterpoints to Ferry’s frenetic character, and Kathryn Alexandre serves as the convincingly naïve and love-struck sixteen year-old catalyst of the plot. Despite the heavy theme, there are many moments of comic relief offered by the hilarious contrast in accents of the German tourists (David J. Phillips, Krista Hovsepian, Linzee Barclay, Chris George), the willful, ever-charming grandfather Nonno (Peter Higginson), Hank (Dylan George) and Jake Latta (Tim Walker). Paul Silvestri and Joseph Recinos are the youthful and unaffected asistentes that manifest Fulton’s less desirable characteristics. Aside from the performances, credit also goes to the costume design (Melanie McNeill) for representing the time period and the character of each role so well, and to the lighting design (Dominic Manca) that provides incredible accents to the evening.
In the end, Hart House has taken Williams’s widely acclaimed play and laid it all out for the audience to ask, without a definitive answer: when one inevitably loses the stability of what once was, where and how do we look for direction? It is an exploration of the human condition at its most vulnerable, and is tenderly and entertainingly delivered, and well worth watching.
At Hart House to March 10