Theatre Review: “Amadeus” by Manya Fabiniak

Theatre Review: ‘Amadeus’ by Irish Classical Theatre Company & Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall
Manya Fabiniak

Collaborations often provide an opportunity to create a whole better than its parts, with each member amplifying the gifts of the other. But when those involved possess the stellar talents of the Irish Classical Theatre Company and the JoAnn Falletta led Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the script of a Tony award play and an Academy award film, the end result can only be breathtakingly memorable! In the magnificent expansive space of Kleinhans Music Hall, all provided an opportunity to experience the many layers that form “Amadeus”, layers that would not be so discernable in a smaller theatrical setting without a full orchestra.

Directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, the play is simply one of revenge against that incomprehensible Divine incandescence that flows seemingly effortlessly through one singular human being out of all the rest. PJ Tighe, as the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the innocent receiver of this blessing. Vincent O’Neill as composer Antonio Salieri, swiftly transforms into the vindictive, envious man of hate in the presence of it. He can only observe Mozart’s Divine genius…he cannot possess it. And what he cannot posses…he chooses to destroy.

And what an enchanting Mozart PJ Tighe provides! Energetic, joy-filled, unabashedly vulgar and ever spontaneous, he flutters through scenes with contrasting bursts of elegant intellectual brilliance and childlike effervescence. In stark contrast to Salieri’s assertively mannered, contrived, sterile artificiality, we see Mozart as one who is truly ALIVE!

Vincent O’Neill’s performance as Salieri exudes all the authority of one who assumes he is not simply brilliant beyond words, but entitled to be so. He assumes his relationship with his god should be his proof. As the play progresses, we hear the orchestra exquisitely prove to him and us that his assumptions are not only mistaken, but painfully delusional. O’Neill allows his character to be tenderly, reverently in awe of the transcendent dream of K 361, while we listen, with all hearts agreeing. Then jealousy reforms him, and he moves with a hateful spine.

And this continues throughout the play, for not only is Salieri’s mind flooded with fragments of sublime score after score, thus deepening his rage, but the expanse of the Hall is as well. With Mozart’s music fully alive in every cell of our bodies, we easily understand the magnitude of Salieri’s pain, as well as his wrath. While great beauty can raise us to spiritual heights yet unknown, it simultaneously exposes all that is unlike itself. Salieri allows the golden ring of joy filled appreciation to slip off his fingers, and leave him a barren bitter man.

The high moment of the eve where collaboration’s power was extremely triumphant occurred was when Solieri declares God his enemy…as O’Neill releases his wrath against God’s betrayal and takes justice into his own hands, the orchestra and magnificent chorus sounds the glory of the Kyrie from K417. Kyrie Eleison…Lord have mercy…thunders again and again through our arteries, stirring our life force while releasing its poignant power. Mozart’s cry for compassion becomes Salieri’s call for destruction.

As the impoverished Mozart later swoons to his death in the arms of his beloved Costanze, played both sweetly and with womanly strength by Kathleen Marcari, he dies unaware of the magnitude of his legacy, or the triumph of his immortality. Behind him, the very musicians and instruments that would make Mozart immortal…they now play for us the soul expanding 4th movement of the Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”…and divine justice smiles upon one and all.

The supporting cast of Anthony Alcocer, Ray Boucher, Elliot Fox, David Lundy and Doug Weyand, all lent their charm and impeccable wit, sending smiles throughout the Hall. Members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, directed by Adam Luebke, also contributed to the performance, specifically soloists Kevin Cosbey, Daniel Johnson, Timothy Lane and Sarabeth Matteson.

AMADEUS by Peter will be presented for two more performances only: Saturday, January 21 at 8PM; and Sunday, January 22 at 2:30PM. All performances will take place at Kleinhans Music Hall. For ticket information contact BPO.org.


Don’t miss our special three-show performance of “Amadeus”

AmadeusRecommended by Visit Buffalo Niagara as a must see show in January, don’t miss out on Irish Classical Theatre’s production of Amadeus at Kleinhans Music Hall. Three performances only—January 20, 21, and 22. Get your tickets today! For more recommendations on shows to see in January, click here.

Single tickets to Amadeus are on sale exclusively by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office. Purchase in person at Kleinhans Music Hall, by phone at 885-5000, or click this link for the Buffalo Philharmonic Box Office.


ICTC sweeps BroadwayWorld Regional Awards

All My SonsBroadwayWorld had a record breaking voter turnout for the 2016 Regional Awards. Irish Classical made a strong showing in the Buffalo area and came away with the following wins:

Best Play: All My Sons

Best Director: Greg Natale, All My Sons

Best Actor: Anthony Alcocer, All My Sons and Jekyll & Hyde

 


Stellar Cast Delves in Drama of “Equus”

Near perfection. That is what the Irish Classical Theatre has achieved in their exciting new production of Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS.

Shaffer’s poignant and often unsettling drama about a troubled teenager who commits an unspeakable act against horses can be difficult to process and to watch. The story relates how the teen is committed to a mental hospital in order to ascertain what demons lie in his psyche. The psychiatrist Martin Dysart is given the near impossible job of treating him. Director David Oliver has assembled such a fine cast that inarguably I would not consider changing it in any way.

The standout performance of P.J. Tighe as the teenager Alan Stang must be singled out. Tighe is called upon to brood, rant, cry, laugh and in general be nasty. He is utterly brilliant in instilling this often unlikable character with a personality that begs the audience for more. Mr. Tighe’s nuanced portrayal lends such a depth of emotions that by the climax of first act you believe he may not have any more to give, but he surely does. His rawness and vulnerability ultimately makes perfect sense based on the back story of his childhood. The brilliance of Shaffer’s script is such that the audience becomes totally invested in learning more about the deeply troubled character of Alan, without writing him off as a simple social deviant. Tighe’s masterful journey of psychological exploration is sure to go down as a highlight of this theatrical season!

Stage veteran Vincent O’Neill portrays Martin as an overworked troubled middle aged man whose own demons often parallel Alan’s. O’Neill was utterly believable in his transition from clinical psychiatrist to man on a mission to probe and decipher the reasons for the boy’s behavior. The dramatic clinical sessions between O’Neill and Tighe ventured from conversation to gut wrench full blown re-enactments of Alan’s past.

The secondary roles of the Alan’s parents were beautifully handled by Gregory Gjurich and Margaret Massman. Ms. Massman’s subtle characterization of a heartbroken mother who has little understanding of her son’s condition was poignant and believable. Her naivete, based on her deep religious beliefs, fueled Mr. Gjurich’s frustration at dealing with a wife whose actions he understand very little. The play’s undertones of sexual repression and religion are firmly rooted in the lives of these two parents.

Wendy Hall, is the judge Hester Salomon who brings Alan to the psychiatrist. Ms. Hall’s desperation to help the boy was palpable and she proved to be a great resource in helping Dysart fight his own demons of his personal life. Hall’s calmness and civility were a nice contrast to the insanity that occurred in the hospital ward.

Oliver’s imaginative staging was complemented by David Dwyer’s highly effective turntable set. Oliver has chosen to seat the entire cast on the periphery of the set, suggesting that the entire cast is always present in the action and ultimately the boys’ subconscious. Lighting designer Brian Cavanagh has created some of the best lighting effects that have been seen at ICTC, subtly dealing with the intimacy and heights of the drama with finesse.

Any production of EQUUS relies on some depiction of the horses that are so central to the story. Costume designer Ann Emo has designed representative horse heads and horse shoes that suggest the structure of the horses, without being too literal. Movement choreographer Gerry Trentham has obviously spent a great deal of time working with the talented 5 men who portray the horses. Their interactions with the boy were fascinating in depicting the sexual tension that builds between the boy and the horses.

The intimacy of the theatre in round auditorium at Irish Classical Theatre makes this riveting play all the more encompassing for the audience. Such a polished production as this EQUUS should have audiences baited and ready for ICTC’s January production of Shaffer’s AMADEUS with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra– featuring Tighe yet again as Mozart.

Review by Michael Rabice | www.broadwayworld.com


FOUR BUFFALOS! Strong cast revives EQUUS

THE BASICS:  EQUUS, the 1973 drama by Peter Shaffer presented by The Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by David Oliver, stars Vincent O’Neill as the psychiatrist Martin Dysart, PJ Tighe as the troubled Alan Strang, with strong support from Margaret Massman, Greg Gjurich, Wendy Hall, Kelsey Mogensen et. al. (including “horses”). EQUUS runs through November 20, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at both 3 & 7:30, Sundays at 2 at the ICTC’s home, the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. (853-ICTC).  www.irishclassical.com. Run time is 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. Advisories: The first act is very long; for mature audiences only (subject matter and nudity).

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  The playwright, Peter Shaffer, was intrigued by a small news item about a boy who had blinded six horses, and began imagining how that might have happened. In this drama (1975 Tony Award for best play) a teenage boy is brought to a psychiatric hospital under court order. He is referred to Dr. Martin Dysart, who is unwilling to take on another yet young patient only to fit them to a life of drab existence. The boy, Alan Strang, has maimed six horses in a stable where he is employed, blinding them all in one night using a hoof spike. The psychiatrist determines to have the boy reveal his actions and his motivations and hopes that by helping the boy relive that fateful night, young Alan will be purged of his demons and be “cured.”

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: First off, this is a very sexy production, and not necessarily because of the nude sex scene in Act II. In fact, the sexual tension that drives the main action is foreshadowed at the first on-stage encounter of the unwilling psychiatrist (Vincent O’Neill) when the lawyer, Hester Salomon (Wendy Hall), cajoles him (well, actually, seduces him but in a professional manner) to take on a new patient. That type of sexual tension has kept and continues to keep many a television series going over multiple seasons. It works if you’ve got it; Wendy Hall has it, and she zips it and buttons it and battens it down in a business suit, but it’s there. It’s the same tension that young Alan Strang will be seen to struggle with, but the adults can keep a lid on, and are therefore more “fit for society.”

The role of Jill Mason, the young woman who tries to introduce Alan to sex, also in Act II, is very well played by Kelsey Mogensen, who is cute as a button, and brings what used to be called a “healthy” attitude about sex to young Alan, whose ideas about sex are anything but. He is as repressed, conflicted, and inchoate as they come. Her role is not easy, walking that fine line between being encouraging but not predatory, flirtatious but not overly so.

And the “horses” are sexy too, for the most part played by young men who obviously work out and appear naked from the waist up wearing wire-sculpture horse masks on their heads and wire-sculpture horse “shoes” on their feet, which make very real to us the unmistakable clomping sound of large, powerful beasts as they move about the stable, choreographed by Gerry Trentham. The group also had a movement and mime coach – Trevor Copp.

Then there are the non-sexy roles of Alan’s parents wonderfully played by Greg Djurich as the repressed, over-protective Frank Strang (who early on the fateful night is seen by his son visiting a porno movie house) and by Margaret Massman as Dora Strang, the religious zealot of the family who ultimately is barred from seeing her son in the psychiatric hospital.

I think that sometimes, for dramatic effect, playwright Peter Shaffer likes to avoid ambiguity in his characters, but, both Djurich and Massman are parents in real life and I thought that might have informed their performances and made them more nuanced.

I have heard several people say that the psychiatry is “dated.” That may be true, but it doesn’t matter, because the psychology is thousands of years old. This is the stuff of Greek myths and legends. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus, equal in importance. Apollo is the god of reason and rational thought (“Apollonian”) while his brother Dionysus is the god of the irrational, emotional, instinctive, and chaotic (“Dionysian”). Every character, repeat, every character, carries both within. The important point that most people forget is that the brothers are not rivals, they work together. They are simply both parts of a complete picture.

Of course, again for dramatic effect, playwrights enjoy pitting one brother against the other, almost as if it were a prize fight (“Tonight, Live from Las Vegas, Apollo versus Dionysus in the battle for humanity.”) And you can go to any Buffalo theater this season or this week and you’ll see that played out, sometimes in an obvious way (Randle P. McMurphy vs. Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) and sometimes less obviously (Professor Harold Hill vs. Marion Paroo in THE MUSIC MAN) and sometimes going back and forth between characters (Lee vs. Austin in TRUE WEST).

And so our two main characters deal with these traits. The doctor, unhappy with his predictable Apollonian life wishes to be more Dionysian, trying to help his patient be much less so.

David Dwyer’s staging is very realistic with rough wooden planks that you might find in part of a stable, and in the middle a large turntable which helps when presenting theater in the round. As always, the sound design by Tom Makar is appropriate. The direction by David Oliver adds an unusual element which I thought makes the whole evening more organic, and that is to have all the actors sitting on the perimeter of the stage starting from a few minutes before the play begins the play and staying on stage. That way, as they stand up to play a part, there is no jarring interruption. The transitions are seamless.

And special kudos go to Brian Cavanagh for his muted lighting. It was always appropriate, but especially so during the nude scene, taking away the graphic elements and adding a dream-like quality.

FOUR BUFFALOS (out of five): Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

Review by Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising


You Need To See “Equus”

Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” may be outdated psychiatrically but it remains a great bit of theater because of the story and its conflict.  It’s a conflict between psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Vincent O’Neill) and disturbed young patient Alan Strang (PJ Tighe).

Strang has been sent to his second-rate psychiatric hospital in Southern England by a local magistrate, Hesther Salomon (Wendy Hall), who sits on the board of the hospital.

Strang has apparently gone into a local stable and blinded all six horses, a horrific event in the small town and Dysart recognizes this is well beyond the usual crowd which has overwhelmed and ground down his performance and abilities.

It takes time for Dysart to wade through his own troubled marriage and his fixation on classic Greece to discover Alan isn’t just screwed-up, he’s really screwed-up.

It’s only when he meets parents Frank (Gregory Gjurich) and Dora (Margaret Massman) that the shrink begins to understand the roots of Alan’s problems, heavily in the religious divide between his parents.

This is psycho-sexual dysfunction, allied with his job taking care of horses and taking care of Jill Mason (Kelsey Mogensen), the young and beautiful daughter of a stable owner.

Only when we watch those two in a dark and shadowy and naked scene under Brian Cavanagh’s lighting, accompanied by Tom Makar’s creepy sound design, do we begin to understand how deranged Alan Strang is.

That’s after Dysart hypnotizes him and re-creates a little of what happened.

It’s really weird.

What makes this show work is the equine cast, the six guys who wear the metal framework which turns them into horses, courtesy of “dialect coach & horse movement choreographer” Gerry Trentham.  You have to see the six of them prancing around in the horse’s heads, with the movement of horses to make the show work, especially Dudney Joseph’s Nugget.

When this show opened in a production I saw in London, this was breakthrough theater in still Puritan and censored British entertainment.  Now, it’s outdated in most ways, but director David Oliver still has a great story to work with and a strong conflict of characters between patient and doctor and he does well with it.

Here, the show’s core is a really strong performance from O’Neill and from Tighe.

The major problem with the show is inherent in the script, the slow start as playwright Shaffer’s story begins to roll out and all the complicated pieces of the script begin to settle into place and the gears whirl.  This is a Swiss watch gearing of a play, built beautifully to place the conflict center stage in the Irish Classical’s pit.

Oliver does something unusual in this production, keeping up the pace of the show by having the entire cast sitting on benches around the stage so they can come on and off quickly so nothing slows down. Even the six horses are right there, as are their horse’s heads.

Keeping up the pace means we don’t lose the central thread of Shaffer’s script, the interplay between the doctor and the patient, O’Neill and Tighe.  They are the best part of the show, although there are strong performances from Hall, Mogensen, Joseph and Gjurich.

The stalk the stage, circling each other and seeking solutions to each’s problems, all in front of the audience.  That’s why the show moves so quickly to frame the collision between mental illness and mental doctor and why you need to see “Equus.”

Review by By Augustine Warner | www.speakupwny.com


Be prepared to be Blown Away!

All this Sex and Sensationalism is all right because it comes from a disturbed mind.  And is given big intellectual saddlebags.  So now Come to the Secret Pounding Copulations of the Centaurs! Yeeaaaaah!!!

Here we are in a town in southern England, farm country, near the coast.  At Rokesby Psychiatric Hospital, we are in the office of Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist.  Hesther Salomon, a Prosecutor, stops by to ask him to please take a remanded prisoner for her.  She can’t think of anyone else who could handle it, it’s a teenager who has committed a horrible and strange act of violence.

This is a very appropriate play for Halloween, what with All Souls rising in white mist cemeteries, and with All Saints rounding in screams and tortured fires.  You may be a rational creature with no credence for religious faith or the peaks and valleys it can explore and plunge in human perception.  You are thus lucky. And you would agree that the young man should be cured, that his pain and terror should be taken away.

The psychiatrist can do this.  And will do this.  But has reluctance, he himself is jealous of this experience, of this terror and pain and exultation he glimpses in his patient’s world, of the wild joy, of the Dionysian extremes which are to be destroyed.  So the boy can live a peaceful if diminished life, so the animals can graze in peace.

Now there’s a theosophical idea that postulates that if you conjecture a god, define and refine the idea of this god, worship this God, that you may actually bring it into being.  Pull it from the cloud of nothingness where it was just murkle, put it on an altar, hand over power to it, and it may come to rule you, at least recognize you.  If you leave it behind, if you no longer believe in it, it may yet still exist, may still exercise Power in the Firmament, may yet cause harmony or mayhem, and is likely Jealous.  And keep close in mind that Man was given Dominion over the Earth in Genesis, but that Horses and Dogs were exempted and given their own Stations in Leviticus.

And so, a horse and rider appear thundering swift along the beach.

This is a most amazing production.  You need to go just to see the horses galloping around the ring of the stage, the rising excitement in the hooha, the incredible sex enacted right on stage in the furious flying dust!  And that’s just the First Act!

At the end of the play, my companion Miss Pickwicker was in stunned amazement- at the play, at the ending, at everything that occurred here.  How long has this been going on! she wanted to know.  Are all the plays this great?!  She couldn’t believe what she just saw!  And to be so close to the stage!

This was Directed by David Oliver, he will be acclaimed for this.  Among the large cast, Vincent O’Neill played the psychiatrist Martin Dysart like it was his favorite role of all time, easily, holding the audience in his palm.  PJ Tighe climbed around in the pains, pleasure, and silence of the young man Alan.  Dudney Joseph played Nuggett and led the other equine wonders: Adam Hayes, Brett Klaczyk, Jordan Levin, Joshua Ranallo, and Lamont Singletary.

Tom Makar was Sound Designer, Gerry Trentham was imported to be Dialect Coach & Horse Movement Choreographer, Brian Cavanagh was Lighting Designer and Technical Director.

Great Clarity of the Text, withal.  And Equus remains to be called upon.  What an amazing play by Peter Schaffer, and what a Powerful Presentation Irish Classical Theatre Company has given it.  Be prepared to be Blown Away!

Review By: Willy Rogue Donaldson | Night Life Magazine


“Superb…you NEED to see this production.”

One of my bigger regrets in my theatrical life was not seeing “Equus” on Broadway. Luckily for myself and all other Buffalo theatergoers, there is a Broadway caliber production being performed at Irish Classical Theater. Now those who regularly read my reviews (thanks if you do) know that I am not one to mince words. This production is, to be brief, superb. Occasionally it is difficult as reviewer to find a way to constructively criticize a work of theater that people have poured their hearts into. Luckily, this review will not be a struggle, as there is truly nothing to criticize in this streamlined production.

This production is, to be brief, superb. . .If you have any interest in theater at all, you NEED to see this production.

“Equus” deals with a psychiatrist charged with uncovering the motivation of a young, psychologically disturbed young adult who is convicted of mutilating six horses in one evening. It is a challenging piece of theater for audiences, and contains mature subject matter and adult language. It might as well be the paragon for modern British “dramedy.”

Credit is first and foremost due to ICTC, for endeavoring to produce such a challenging and demanding piece of theater, and doing it with appropriate respect for the text and its author. The ensemble is immediately placed in the thick of the story, with actors entering along with audience members and seating themselves around the action on the stage. The audience almost immediately feels a sense of a tribal atmosphere, and this observational approach makes the piece even stronger. David Oliver and his team are to be commended. Trevor Copp, who is tasked with coordinating the mimed action in the piece, supplements the world of the play with his brilliance, executed flawlessly by the entire company.

As always, Vincent O’Neill is a treat to watch. His narrative voice aids the audience understanding of the piece. His turn as psychiatrist Martin Dysart is almost certain to be Artie nominated, and rightfully so. He approaches the role with intellect, honesty, and a certain reverence for the dialogue. It is an approach that is beyond effective.

Supporting O’Neill is PJ Tighe, who brings to the stage the perfect, and I mean perfect, blend of off-color humor, charisma, and transcendence. Tighe is playing a highly complicated individual, but he isn’t overacting, or forcing it down his audience members’ throats.

As Tighe’s parents, Greg Gjurich and Margaret Messman are equally impressive, if only for their layered performances.

Kelsey Mogensen, as Tighe’s love interest, is irresistible in every sense of the word. The best thing about this production is that the ensemble is as impressive, if not moreso.

The danger with staging “Equus” is getting overwhelmed by the magnitude of the piece. ICTC takes it all in stride and then some. The entire production team is unified in their drive to create a cohesive production, and it shows. The actors have committed their whole selves to the work they are doing, and in some cases are literally baring themselves.

As far as dramatic literature goes, “Equus” is the tops. It would not surprise anyone, then, that Irish Classical Theater is the theater to produce it. If you have any interest in theater at all, you NEED to see this production.

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

Advisory: For Mature Audiences Only.

Review by Nathan Andrew Miller


“Instruments of strife and fate and the gods at play”

Here we are in St. Cloud on the Gulf Coast on Easter Sunday 1956, in a bedroom of the Royal Palms Hotel.  Uh, oh.  Chance Wayne is back in town.  There’s a woman still sleeping in the bed, Chance gets up and moves around, pours himself a drink.

We find out that Chance left town quite a while ago, and no one is expecting him back.  He tried for an acting career, but that didn’t shake out so well, so now he’s escorting women around as a kept man, a gigolo.  He’s still pretty young, in good shape as he moves around the bedroom in his pajama bottoms.

In the bed is the beautiful if aging actress The Princess Kosmonopolis, unaware that she’s been brought to Chance’s home town, unaware of the trouble he’s been in and will get into again.

Chance wants to see his local girlfriend, whom he left here years ago.  Heavenly Finley hasn’t forgotten him, and neither has Heavenly’s papa, Boss Finley.  He’s running for re-election, and the last thing he wants to hear about is Chance Wayne.  And that he is back in town.

A knock at the door, it’s George Scudder, he’s come to deliver a warning to Chance that he’d be better off just taking off again.  And from here on, the play develops like an old Greek play just aheaded for disaster.  It’s foretold, the hero has been warned, the hero has a few chinks in his armor and his honor, but stands his ground, refuses to leave as the clouds overhead get darker and darker.  The hero never kidnapped the Young Beauty, but he left her despoiled when he left town for fame and fortune.  And there’s no grandeur in the avenging forces, just townie thugs following orders.  The hero is warned away by both Artemis and Athena, but he goes on to his destiny.  Thud.

Everybody and everything is sort of tainted, that’s the South that Tennessee put on stage.  Nevertheless, the play has force and beauty, the actors declaim it with skill, the audience gave it a big standing Ovation.  My companion Miss Pickwicker was thrilled, he cheeks flushed with emotion.

The Heckler, a meager chorus if ever there was, was played by Gerry Maher.  Aleks Malejs plays the actress with verve, and Colleen Gaughan plays Aunt Nonnie with charm and delicacy.  Chance is played handsomely by Patrick Cameron.

Supporting photos are displayed on animal skins in the corners, a custom in the Pelopponesus, the Video Projections Designer was Brian Milbrand.  The Lighting Designer was Brian Cavanagh, the Set Design was by Kenneth Shaw.  The Director Fortunato Pezzimenti well polished the instruments of strife and fate and the gods at play.

– Willy Rogue Donaldson, Night Life Magazine


“There’s nothing like a good delusion.”

For theatrical purposes, there’s nothing like a good delusion.  It’s Tennessee Williams and “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

That’s Chance Wayne (Patrick Cameron), good looking and fading, returning to his Gulf Coast home town because he remains in love with the daughter of the area’s political boss, Heavenly Finley (Renee Landrigan).

Boss Finley (Stan Klimecko) has no plan, ever, to let Chance ever get together again with his daughter, based on sexual damage from an encounter years before when she was a teen.
Williams set this play around Easter Sunday in 1956, when sexual discussions were whispered, although the vicious racial politics of the time and the place could be openly discussed.
Boss Finley was typical of the time and the place in the mid-Fifties, as the Civil Rights movement began to gather steam in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation.

People like the Boss, with his background in the red clay soil of Alabama, didn’t like the way Black people threatened his iron grip and that’s why he publicly supports a lynching.
Chance arrives in St. Cloud with an older woman, the Princess Kosmonopolis (Aleks Malejs), who’s really a fading Hollywood star, fleeing the opening of her new movie, an opening she thought was disastrous and went on the road with a new name and a large sheaf of traveler’s checks.  That means her location can’t be found, since this is before the days of charge cards which can be traced.

Wayne is on a downward spiral, fueled by his delusions and bad behavior to the point he meets the traveling star while working at the cabana duties at a resort.
Chance sleeps with the princess and lusts after Heavenly.  While being interested in more than one woman at a time isn’t unusual (just look at Donald Trump’s private life), Tennessee Williams really piles on the eccentricity of a man who never lets reality interfere with his dreams.

Boss Finley comes equipped with an inner circle of thugs who take care of problems and Chance Wayne is a problem to be dealt with.  Besides, he has arranged for Heavenly to marry Dr. George Scudder (Jacob Albarella), who is aware of her sexual history.

This is classic Williams, love, lust, money and power set in the steam of the old South.  You know there will be few redeeming characters and a lot of bad ones.  It’s all doom under a relentless sun mixed with relentless humidity, where you know early on every decision will be the wrong one.

Director Fortunato Pezzimenti has a pretty strong cast, especially Klimecko, Cameron, Malejs and Bethany Sparacio’s Miss Lucy, the Boss’ mistress, and busybody Aunt Nonnie (Colleen Gaughan).  Kenneth Shaw contributed a set which helps tell the story on the Andrews Theatre’s confined stage.

“Sweet Bird of Youth” is from Tennessee Williams’ golden period and it shows in the story and the way it works out.

Although not a great fan of Williams, this is a strong production looking at a time when the country was changing and the old power structure was fading.

It’s worth seeing.

– Augustine Warner, speakupwny.com