The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams, directoed by Anders Cato.
Always worth a visit - but not a review
Linda Hamilton; photo: Kevin Sprague
By J. Peter Bergman
Let me start by saying this is not a review of The Night of the Iguana. I saw the first public performance of this production, a preview, and I also represent Jeff Davis, the lighting designer, so with that said, I repeate that this is not a review. But I do want to tell you a few things about the play and and my reaction to what I saw.
Director Anders Cato has chosen to use a cut version of the play, one that most companies seem to prefer. It removes four characters completely from the action, assigns a few of their lines and actions to others and places the piece in a limbo-time that could be anything from the late Depression to the early 1980s. The loss of context, I believe, weakens the play, turning it into a very personal document, an intimate-associations play, the sort of thing Williams could always do brilliantly. What made this such a startling achievement in 1961 was its relevance to a time recently past that could still deal with the universal subject matter of personal relationships. The color lost and the contract gone removes some of the sting of things said and actions taken. I suggest that after you see what some excellent actors and technicians have created with the cut version you read the original and make up your own mind about versions. Even the film, with Richard Burton and Ava Gardner, took the cut version road and added a few small things of its own. Personally, I prefer the original
Cato has cast some terrific actors and that helps a lot. Linda Hamilton is a major surprise. Her Maxine Faulk is better than Gardner, better than Shelley Winters, but not quite the Bette Davis of the original. Garrett Dillahunt is youthful, exuberant, sexy and compelling as Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon. William Swan takes on the role of Jonathan Coffin as though it is a comfortable old suit and he wears it perfectly. Amelia Campbell, while a lovely and affecting actress, is too young to be believable as the middle-aged New England spinster/artist. So much of the play depends upon her and she, visually, could not make buy what her character was selling.
The production is stunning and the direction is seamless and carried the play along with energy and emotion. It's one of those plays people should know and see and hear and thrill to when possible. I'm hoping lots of people see this one and that some of them meet me for a drink or dinner and discuss the play and the production - two separate things - and, of course, read the original. It's so worth doing.
◊ 08-05-06 ◊
William Swan and Amelia Campbell; photo: Kevin Sprague
Garrett Dillahunt; photo: Kevin Sprague
The Night of the Iguana plays through August 12. Information and tickets, call 413-298-5576 or go to their website at www.berkshiretheatre.org.