One cringes with the hackneyed term, " best kept secret in...(add venue)" , but I am consistently amazed with how many theatre goers have never witnessed the most talented company in the First State.
One cringes with the hackneyed term, " best kept secret in...(add venue)" , but I am consistently amazed with how many theatre goers have never witnessed the most talented company in the First State. Year after year UD REP Ensemble achieves the highest level of acting, set, sound, costuming and light design - comparable to any group in the REGION - and still, friends and colleagues have not journeyed to the intimate Roselle Center for the Arts.
NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, part of the quartet of Tennessee Williams' greatest; STREETCAR, GLASS MANAGERIE and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF being the others, opens the season.
This is less an ensemble play than the majority of REP shows, dominated by the characters of (Shannon) Mic Matarrese, (Maxine) Elizabeth Heflin and (Hannah) Carine Montbertrand. However, all the aforementioned technical effects play as integral, meaningful and sublime a part.
Williams' characters are not easy; each rife with personal conflicts. Ex-minister Shannon, has been locked out of his church after characterizing the Occidental image of God as a "senile delinquent". Shannon is not de-frocked, but institutionalized for a "nervous breakdown". After his release, Rev. Shannon obtains employment as a guide for a second-rate travel agency. Shortly before the opening of the play, Shannon is accused of having committed statutory rape of a sixteen-year old girl, herself a tour group member. This does not go over well with the other women of the group. He brings his tour to a seedy Mexican hotel owned by Maxine. Matarrese is excellent in portraying all these emotional struggles.
Heflin as Maxine adds to his inner conflicts with her overwrought sexuality and 'earthiness' towards him.
Adding to this chaotic scenario, a spinster Hannah appears with her moribund grandfather, (Nonno) Michael Gotch. Shannon, who wields considerable influence over Maxine, offers Hannah shelter for the night. The play's main axis is the development of the deeply human bond between Hannah and Shannon.
Having the privilege of seeing Montbertrand in more comedic roles in the past, it is fascinating - but not surprising - to witness the depth that she brings to Hannah. Gotch, on the other hand, portrays the aged father. For one 20 minute segment he must sit statue-like on a bed; a testament to his own theatrical discipline.
Like the iguana, captured and tied to a pole by the Mexicans in the play, Hannah and they have come to the end of their rope. This metaphor is intensified when Shannon tears at his golden cross on his neck, lacerating himself, as if to free himself from its constraints. One expects Shannon to end up with Hannah, but Williams supplies us with a counterintuitive conclusion.
Producers and directors globally should imprint the words written by Sandy Robbins, Producing Artistic Director: "The audience is the most revered member of the theatre. Without an audience, there is no theatre. Everything done is ultimately for the enjoyment of the audience. They are our fellow players and the last spoke in the wheel which can then begin to roll. They make the performance meaningful."
(Next up is THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS, a masterpiece of Commedia dell'Arte. REP does farce well!)
Through October 13. Rep.Udel.edu 302.831.2204