Night of the Iguana

I was at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge last week.  When my female companion and I went downstairs for a pre-show pee, we saw two bathrooms with no signage.  As we tried to figure it out, one snooty broad sporting a 5 o’clock shadow said, “This is Cambridge – we don’t believe in labels!”  Why was I there?  Because there are a handful of people I would fly anywhere in the world to see.  One of those people is Elizabeth Ashley.  It almost doesn’t matter what the play is, what the role is, what the theatre is, or if anyone else is in the audience.  Because, frankly, when you are faced with Elizabeth Ashley, nobody else exists.  And when the play is by Tennessee Williams, it’s hand-in-glove time.  When the ART announced it would mount Williams’ Night of the Iguana, I was intrigued.  When it cast Bill Heck, Dana Delany, Amanda Plummer, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Ashley, I booked my flight.

What Williams does brilliantly is bring disparate, desperate people together in a claustrophobic-yet-airy environment.  Then he turns on the heat and lets them sizzle.  Director Michael Wilson makes two things perfectly clear – he trusts the text, and he trusts his actors.  It’s an evocative but uncluttered production with direction which underscores the dialogue but never glosses over it.  Some of the performances are better than others, but there’s nary a clunker in the bunch.  Still, it’s Ashley who wakes things up.  She enters like a Texas tornado and raises the stakes considerably.  Whenever you’re bored, watch her eat dinner in the background – you can almost taste the iguana!  The play runs through Marcy 18th, so grab one of the remaining tickets at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.

 

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