Are you ready for some Tennessee Williams? Are you ready to attend a show in a unique venue?
Anthony Pender is directing The Night of the Iguana for the Neuse Little Theatre in Smithfield. Their venue is a quaint 80-year-old log cabin, affectionately known as “The Hut,” on the corner of Front and Market Streets. (Something about their proscenium stage and its curtains made us think of old-time vaudeville theater, but that has nothing to do with this production.)
Tony Pender makes excellent use of the space; characters enter from the house (as well as from backstage) and thereby define the surrounding terrain as well as the onstage area.
Although Tennessee Williams’ works can sometimes feel tedious and bogged-down, this production avoids that pitfall. It breezes along at a brisk pace, only slowing down at appropriate, poignant moments.
Maxine Faulk (Stephanie Holloman Kellogg) is the recently widowed owner of the Costa Verde Hotel in Mexico, where the action takes place. Pedro (Shaun Braswell) and Pancho (Dakota Carter) work for her. (We got the impression that they also “play” with her at times.)
The Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon (Stephen Carl), a disgraced minister who now works as a tour guide, is an old friend of Maxine’s; and he has brought his group of tourists to stay at the hotel. Judith Fellows (Betty Neugent Harris), the leader of the tour group, is angry with Shannon for having had sex with a 16-year-old member of their group named Charlotte Goodall (Nicole Worth), who is now in love with Shannon and wants to marry him.
Hank (Matt Gore) is the bus driver, Jake Latta (Bill Jordan) is another employee of the tour company, and Jonathan “Nonno” Coffin (Randy Jordan) is a “98-years-young” minor poet.
Hannah Jelkes (Gwendolyn Mewes Sullivan) is Nonno’s 40-something spinster granddaughter, a painter and sketch-artist who travels with him. They make their living from their art, and times are hard. This night at the hotel will be very significant for one actual iguana and for more than one metaphorical “iguana.”
As Maxine, Stephanie Kellogg is appropriately vivacious and lusty. It was fun listening to her speak to Pedro and Pancho in Spanish, switching languages effortlessly.
Stephen Carl’s Shannon is as complex, confused, and on-the-edge as we would expect from someone who has “painted himself into a corner” as tight as this; and Betty Harris’ Judith is suitably tough, no-nonsense, and “take-no-prisoners” as she addresses the problems that she encounters while attempting to control both Shannon and Charlotte.
We found Gwen Sullivan and Randy Jordan’s performances as Hannah and Nonno to be the most endearing. Watch for the phrase “[I]t is finished.”
It is worth mentioning that, from the moment each of them appeared, Matt Gore and Bill Jordan showed us characters who were obviously feeling the heat of a summer day in Mexico.
Observations from the Department of Picky-Picky:
- A few characters were a bit difficult to understand during their first few minutes onstage Friday night. Possibly opening-night jitters?
- Other than Matt Gore and Bill Jordan, nobody else seemed oppressed by the heat. This is a detail that could be easily overlooked when playing a larger role, but it can be just as easily fixed.
- The physicality of the “stage-combat” interactions between Judith Fellows and both the Rev. Shannon and Charlotte Goodall could be improved.
Between now and Feb. 27th, try to find a night (or an afternoon) for this iguana.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Drew Jackson: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/johnston-county/article60343166.html.
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 email@example.com.
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).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.