THE TWO CHARACTER PLAY
by Tennessee Williams.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 20 November 2010.
M0n-Sat 7.30[pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 October.
A worthy stab at a piece of unworkable dramatic therapy.
In the 1940s and 50s Tennessee Williams was a lead act in American playwriting. By the sixties to eighties he was seen as someone writing himself away from greatness with each new script.
Now, dead 27 years, he’s a great writer in retrospect, hindsight having only the better works in view. So historical interest welcomes this rare revival of an unusual piece. Williams wrote, and rewrote, it over ten years, suggesting a particular personal interest in the material or a tortuous inability to get it right. These, of course, are two things that often go together.
The two characters are brother and sister. From the moment Paul McEwan’s Felice appears there’s no doubt Gene David Kirk’s Jermyn Street production identifies him with the author. Rose (born first and outliving her brother by 13 years), the sister over whom he felt continued guilt, isn’t visually depicted by Catherine Cusack, whose Clare enters under the influence of some strong, disorienting medication. And Clare’s fear of leaving the house recalls the shyness of The Glass Menagerie’s Laura Wingfield, a definite portrait of Rose.
But these two are actors, and they’re performing their only repertory, ‘The Two Character Play’. There may, or not, be an audience, and the play fizzles out, or rather, merges gradually with the tense relationship between the two actor-characters, who have a family crime not far in the background. The discovery they’re locked in a deserted theatre, which may never be reopened, takes the action into the nightmare territory of a world where rules don’t apply; stuck between Pirandello land and Beckett country.
But Williams’ obsession with the material seems to deny the clarity that can either explain or, more likely with such material, fascinate, and urge a return to apparently inexplicable material. The feeling here is that, if the difficulties people new to the play will almost certainly encounter, were to be re-examined the result would be either continuing confusion or a truth that would matter only to its creator. Both actors work with intense commitment but the play remains an exercise well outside the author’s creative comfort zone.
Clare: Catherine Cusack.
Felice: Paul McEwan.
Director: Gene David Kirk.
Designer: Alice Walkling.
Lighting/Sound: Phil Hewitt.
Dialect Coach: Marina Tyndall.