Monday, November 10, 2014

The Night of the Iguana—Clark College—Vancouver, WA

Resort of Lost Souls

This classic drama by Tennessee Williams is playing at their Decker Theater at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way through November 22nd.  It is directed and designed by Mark Owsley.  For more information, go to their site at or call 360-992-2815.

The lizard is considered one of the earliest forms of life and has remained relatively unchanged through all those centuries.  An enduring primitive creature, evolving from the sea, where early life may have started.  It is not a coincident, then, that this play takes place near the sea and has an iguana as the symbolic creature of the primitive and, perhaps innocence, of early Life itself.

Albee actually has the two species meeting (lizards & homo sapiens) in his play, Seascape, and Williams even tiptoed around the theme also in his, Suddenly Last Summer, a story of beauty and decadence being devoured and consumed, not unlike Wilde’s, …Dorian Gray.  That said, the fallen and the pure, the living and the dead, the primitive and the up-tight, all converge onto this Mexican resort in the 1940’s.

It is run by the free-spirited, Maxine (Linda Matthews Owsley) whose husband, Fred, has just passed away.  Into this wayward paradise descend a flock of Texas Baptist women, led by The Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon (H. Gene Biby) a defrocked, alcoholic, woman-chasing man of the cloth, who is their tour guide.  The most prominent member of the group is its leader, Miss Fellowes (Emily Wells), a cantankerous, old biddy who is a thorn in everybody’s side, and a budding, sexy, teenage vixen, Charlotte (Kiara Goulding), aching for more rendezvous’ with Shannon.

Also adding drama to this pack of misfits are Hannah (Elana Mack), an artist and virgin, and her grandfather, Nonno (Zak Campbell), the oldest living poet.  They tour the world, paying their way by drawing character sketches of patrons and reciting poems.  In short, they are all hustlers or con men, trying to scratch out their special place in the world by any means necessary.  Spinster vs. Heathen vs. Widow vs. Vixen vs. God vs. Nature, all adding emotional energy to this bubbling oasis.  It is the story of people, not events, and who will survive this steaming cauldron of caustic calamity.

I have to say right off that Owsley’s set is amazing.  One feels that you could simply step onto the stage and be transported into their world.  It is a small space for so many characters but Owsley’s blocking kept the comings and goings flowing smoothly.  Williams is not an easy writer to enact, as his plays are more character-driven than story-driven.  And with mostly college students, who may not have even heard of Williams, this is not an easy task.  But Owsley has assembled a cast that appears to understand the material and delivers a worthwhile production.  “Fan-tastic!”

Biby, as the minister, is wonderful to watch.  The neat thing about his interpretation is that he allows the character to slowly build into a frenzy and thereby you understand his frustration.  A couple other productions I’ve seen of this play depict him ranting and raving from the beginning, which doesn’t allow the character room to stretch as the story proceeds.  Biby was also excellent as George in their …Virginia Woolf? and he, once again, is a joy to watch!

Owsley, as Maxine, is also a fine actor, having also played Martha to Biby’s George.  She does well as the free spirit, spouting and spewing when it’s called for.  Wells as the uptight matron is truly a monster to behold, someone you would not want on your vacation.  But, for the life of me, I couldn’t identify the accent, which should have been a Texas drawl, that she was attempting.  Good acting, though.  And Goulding as the sexy teen definitely has all the right stuff for the part.  Not only is she alluring, she is a damn good actor as well.  Look forward to seeing her on the stage again.

Campbell, as the aging poet, is obviously several years too young for the part but he does an excellent job of portraying the character.  His delivery of Nonno’s final poem is quite moving.  But I would tone down the face make-up a bit, as it doesn’t need to be so pronounced in such a relatively, small space.  And Mack, in what is probably the largest female role in the play, is just fine.  Her rendition of her stories about her sexual encounters is very moving and captivating.  In fact those long scenes with Biby in the second act are some of the best in the show.

I would recommend this show but, because of subject matter, it is obviously not for everybody.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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