Review by Judith Robinson
Tennessee Williams’ female characters are always well drawn out, strong and three-dimensional. This is certainly true of the four characters in this year’s lunch hour show at the Shaw Festival—A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. Deborah Hay was fabulous in ‘Cabaret’, but she’s even better in Creve Coeur as the misguided, fragile Dorothea—a 1930’s teacher who gets romantically involved with a cavalier principal. Photo by David Cooper – SHAW
Throughout the fifty-five minutes, Hay hangs on the point of madness—keeping the audience on the edge of its seats. Her fantasy world resembles Laura’s in ‘The Glass Menagerie’. But when the dream turns into a nightmare will she have the guts to pull it together and go on? That’s the question that drives the plot.
It’s the storytelling genius of Tennessee Williams that captivates the crowd. This production creates the mood of sitting around a campfire hearing confessions and a few haunting tales. The monologues are long—but not boring. The emotions are heightened and the dilemmas captivating. There’s something spooky about the whole thing—from the disappearance and reappearance of the distraught Miss Gluck, played by Julain Molnar, weeping and moaning like a banshee—to the two off stage suitors who seem ethereal and otherworldly. It’s the relationships between women that seem to count in Williams’ world.
Hay’s future is at stake—the decisions she makes in this moment will impact her whole life. She is offered two roads—one leading toward illusion with a hint of romance and one toward an ill-perfect security. It’s a choice women have made since the beginning of time. In order to find contentment we all have to take chances—role the dice and get in the game. No playwright has taken more emotional high stakes risks than Williams. That’s what makes his plays so powerful.
Director, Blair Williams, also takes chances in this production—stressing the little things—the details—the practicalities that make the illusion look less appealing—the precision with which Kate Hennig as Bodey, prepares fried chicken, and the care she takes to protect and console her friends. These moments—woven between the words—tip the scale in favour of the sure road to safety and sanity.
The sacrifice of a dream, that Hay makes so skillfully, creates great sympathy for her character, and leaves us cheering for her at the end. Hay says she must choose romance or die. She does die. But her resurrection is glorious. Creve Coeur is playing at the Court House Theatre, NOTL