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A CurtainUp Review
Tennessee Williams 1982
A Recluse and his Guest and The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme Le Monde

I think it is life to go on even when it is death to. — Nevrika
Williams 1982
Photo: Declan Eells and Kate Skinner (photo credit: Russ Ross)
Two one-act plays, both written during the last year of Tennessee Williams's life are being presented by the Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company. While neither play is prominent even among the more noteworthy of his short plays, A Recluse and his Guest is most important for being a world premiere. The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme. Le Monde appears infrequently enough to say I have never seen it. The good news as that both plays have been beautifully directed by Romanian-born Cosmin Chivu who gave a new and vibrant life two years ago to another Williams one-acter The Mutilated

Both plays have been given a visually arresting setting by designer Justin West that adjusts to different locales. More importantly, a very fine ensemble of actors have been led by a imaginative director with a distinct and penetrating vision. If both plays are also packed with the metaphors and symbols that reveal the by then drug and alcohol besotted Williams at his most absurdist, they can also be seen as two of his more subconsciously revelatory.

Although Williams is best remembered for his full-length masterpieces The Glass Menagerie,A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, those who revel in his unbridled theatricality are always on the hunt for more to surface from American's most impassioned but sometimes exceedingly impenetrable playwright. There's a lot to ponder and absorb in both of these plays. They are dark and illuminating, cruel and sensitive, illusive and charged with a brutal sexuality. Who could ask for anything more?

In A Recluse and his Guest , A tired, hungry but seemingly undaunted woman named Nevrika (Kate Skinner) has just come out of the Midnight Forest "a far northern town in a remote time." She is dressed in a shabby coat of furry hide. A crude passerby says she smells but it doesn't deter him from belittling her while still initiating a bit of intimacy which she doesn't resist. She soon finds a home ingratiating herself with a reluctant if also mean-spirited recluse named Ott (Ford Austin) and, over a period of time, is able to soften his rough edges. But soon enough he rejects her and reverts back to his own deeply embedded antisocial behavior.

Skinner's fine performance gives us a touching portrait of a basically gentle woman who stubbornly refuses to be hardened by her plight or by the cruelties of the world that seems to follow her relentlessly on her journey. Austin is equally enthralling as a man so embittered by the outside world that he is no longer willing to be hurt again. Other scenes are complemented by the rest of this excellent ensemble.

Set in a sordid attic room in London, The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme. Le Monde is much like a psycho-sexually induced nightmare. It is also filled with an inescapably poignant subtext in which a crippled young man named Mint (Jade Ziane) who, though apparently a renter, is now a captive in the house of Mme. Le Monde (again well played by Skinner in garish garb and red fright wig). He is not only being regularly assaulted sexually by her mad and sadistic son (Declan Eells) but is subjected to the indifference to his situation by his insensitive friend Hall (a chillingly callous performance by Patrick Darwin Williams) who insists on telling Mint of his sexual exploits at great length.

Navigating himself mostly futilely on a series of ropes on pulleys, Mint's survival under these circumstances is questionable at best. Creepy though it is, there is that touch of Williams at his most achingly absurdist.

While both plays may be considered wildly off the mark set by Williams in his most personally lucid period, they are unforgettably haunting fragments that help us to understand the madly circuitous journey of an eternal optimist who would not surrender to abuse.

Tennessee Williams 1982
Directed by Cosmin Chivu
A Recluse and his Guest
The Cast: Jade Ziane (The Baker), Anne Wechsler (A Customer, Golden Haired Girl), Kate Skinner (Nevrika), Beau Allen (A Citizen of Staad, A Town Counselor), Ford Austin (Ott), Declan Eells (Tavern Keeper)
The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme Le Monde
Cast: Jade Ziane (Mint), Declan Eells (The Son), Patrick Darwin Williams (Hall), Kate Skinner (Mme. Le Monde)
Lighting Design: John Eckert
Scenic Design: Justin West
Costume Design: Angela Wendt
Original Music: Paul Brantley
Production Stage Manager: Tara Griffo
Running Time: Ninety minutes with intermission
Walker Space, 46 Walker Street, Manhattan
(800) - 838 - 3006
Tickets: $40.00 for general admission plus $50.00 for premium reserved seats
Performances: February 24 - 28, March 2 - 6, 9 -13 at 7:30; February 27, March 5, 12 at 3 pm.
From 02/24/16 Opened 02/21/16 Ends 03/13/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/18/16
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