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