Fever when it's late at night: A lesser known Tennessee Williams play swelters on center stage at the T. Schreiber Studio.
By Ellen Wernecke
It's too darn hot at the Costa Verde Hotel, where Maxine Faulk (Janet Saia) presides over the full drink cart and the empty rooms, mourning her dead husband only between frolics with her Mexican employees. One muggy night, hotel regular T. Lawrence Shannon (Derek Roché), a disgraced priest from Texas who now leads bus tours in Mexico, stumbles in with a busload of Baptist schoolteachers in tow. Shannon claims it's his last tour, not only because of his own fatigue but because of the young teacher (Alecia Medley) he claims seduced him and who now won't leave him alone. At the same time, a pair of unlikely drifters, a painter (Denise Fiore) and her senile grandfather (Peter Judd), reach the hotel and insist on taking a room even though they have no way to pay for it. “Whatcha got wrong with you?” Maxine asks Shannon, who replies, with the unspeakable burden of all of Williams’s men, “Fever. Fever.”
Drenched in rum-cocos and the expectation of a storm, “The Night of the Iguana” is a clear (if inferior) relation to Williams’s tense masterpiece “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and director Terry Schreiber’s treatment unfolds for the most part as languorously as a hot afternoon. Shannon’s relationships with Hannah, the painter, and Maxine, the amoral widow, each contain their own poles of attraction and repulsion, and Saia and Fiore turn in great performances, although Roché stands out as the priest alternately tortured by and repudiating the dark deeds of his past. In the second act, the pace of the play slows down to almost a crawl as Shannon and Hannah are forced to grapple with the choices they have made and the doors they’ve closed in their travels. The intimate staging (the stage represented as a tropical atrium with the audience on three sides) keeps their conversation riveting, not only because it’s the only thing going on onstage but because the set invites a prurient leaning in. (This backfires somewhat when Medley and her hysterical chaperone, played by Pat Patterson, take the stage, and similarly in the irregular appearances of a band of loud German tourists; these performances are delivered so broadly that they threaten to undo this understanding between performers and audience.) The long, subtropical evening over which “The Night of the Iguana” takes place is one in which theatregoers can easily get lost in a languid dream.
Through March 30 at the T. Schreiber Studio
151 W. 26th St.
Tickets $10-$20, Theatermania
For more information visit tschreiber.org
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