Neuse Little Theatre is to be commended for taking on the challenge of The Night of the Iguana, a classic 1961 Broadway drama by Tennessee Williams — and one in which a hometown famous movie star (Ava Gardner) once played in the 1964 Hollywood version.
Williams’ characters are alway complex, broken, and difficult for even the best actors to portray. We saw The Night of the Iguana on opening night, and found it satisfying; but it has the potential to grow and mature as the Neuse Little Theatre continues its two-week run. Kudos to this theater for providing an audio-induction “hearing loop” for the benefit of those of us who have difficulty hearing.
The theater is a great old log cabin, called “The Hut”, formerly owned by the American Legion. It is roomy, with comfortable seats; and it is readily accessible from the Triangle area. The proscenium stage occupies one end of the room from wall to wall, leaving plenty of space for an ample audience.
Director and set designer D. Anthony Pender The Night of the Iguana has created a set that extends fully across the stage, with painted palm trees and a curtained semblance of a motel façade, in front of which hangs a hammock. On the other side rests a multipurpose table-and-chair set, and between them a sparsely supplied drink caddy. Entrances and exits are made onstage and also from both wall-side aisles. Appropriate costumes for the 1940 setting are provided by the cast themselves. A less-modern wheel chair would have been a more authentic prop.
Tony Pender directs a lively, energetic cast, who enthusiastically give it their best. He would have done well to have slowed down the general delivery, and helped his actors to project rather than shout, and to get the actors to listen to each other, instead of reciting lines. There were movements that appeared only to be motivated because they were directed, and not to indicate emotional content. The device of moving characters downstage center to speechify at the audience should be abandoned.
Stephanie Kellogg, as Maxine Faulk, a recent widow who has inherited ownership and management of a cheap tropical hotel, the Costa Verde, in Puerto Barrio, on the west coast of Mexico, brings the longings and lustiness of her lovelorn character to full fore. She romps the stage with wild abandon, and purrs seductively when Maxine requires it.
Stephen Carl plays the Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon, who was locked out of his church when he preached what was heard as blasphemy and was thrown into an insane asylum. Upon his release, Shannon became a guide for second-rate tours that he books into the Costa Verde. This is a severely difficult part, and Shannon has worked at understanding the character. His interaction with Charlotte (played by Nicole Worth), the teenager whom Shannon has seduced and who believes that she is now in love with him, is his best acting in this performance. He will grow further into the part.
Gwen Sullivan, as Hannah Jelks, the traveling portrait painter, caring for her 97-year-old itinerant-poet grandfather, brings experience and depth to the role, remaining relatively calm as she hustles her way through registering and staying at the hotel and cadging a living with every breath.
Jelks’ grandfather, Nonno Coffin, is played expertly by Randy Jordan, who gets a fullness into the aging old con-man’s voice, and takes ownership of his wheelchair as if it were part of him, yet still makes good use of a cane when necessary. His stage presence is commanding.
Betty Harris finds the outrage in her character, Judith Fellows, but could refrain from inching up, and thus telegraphing, her swatting of the Rev. Shannon. The remaining cast does a fine supporting job.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Drew Jackson: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/johnston-county/article60343166.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 21st Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/02/every-iguana-will-have-its-night/.)
Neuse Little Theatre presents THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at 8 p.m. Feb. 26 and 27 in The Hut (the former American Legion Hut), 104 S. Front St., Smithfield, North Carolina 27577, at the corner of Front St. and U.S. 70 Business (Market St.).
TICKETS: $13 by advance reservation and $15 walk-up.
BOX OFFICE: 919-934-1873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW: http://hometownheritage.com/neuselittletheatre/IguanaPoster.jpg and https://www.facebook.com/events/1686201324960892/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.neuselittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NeuseLittleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/neuselittlethtr.
The Night of the Iguana (1961 Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1635 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/6551 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_the_Iguana (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III (playwright, 1911-83): http://www.britannica.com/biography/Tennessee-Williams (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8822 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0931783/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Williams (Wikipedia).
The Night of the Iguana (1964 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/693/The-Night-of-the-Iguana/ (TCM Movie Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058404/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_the_Iguana_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
D. Anthony Pender (director): http://nsvt.woodmr.net/tony-pender (NSVT: Theatre in the Carolinas & Virginia bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.