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BY TRAV S.D. (travsd.wordpress.com) | What a pleasant surprise! I went to the current revival of Tennessee Williams’ 1965 “The Mutilated” to watch two heavyweights slug it out and received that spectacle in spades, plus a good deal more.
Mink Stole and Penny Arcade are both larger-than-life as Williams’ sordidly symbiotic odd couple, Trinket and Celeste, who bide their time at the down-at-the-heels Silver Dollar Hotel in New Orleans. The two characters in some ways seem to embody the two sides of Williams the playwright (realism vs. expressionism). As directed by Cosmin Chivu, the actresses seem to play it in just that way.
As Trinket, a lonely Texas oil heiress who has been “mutilated” by a mastectomy, Mink Stole is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking — and much in line with our expectations for a traditional interpretation. If there is a “way” to do Williams’ dramas, she is doing it the way we want it done.
Arcade and Stole ‘sordidly symbiotic’ as two sides of the Tennessee coin
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Cosmin Chivu
Original music by Jesse Selengut
Music performed by Tin Pan
Previews: Nov. 7–9 at 7:30pm, Nov. 9 at 3pm
Regular Performances: Nov. 10 at 7pm,
Nov. 12–16, 19–23, 26-30 at 7:30pm
and Nov. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 & Dec. 1 at 3pm
At the New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St.
(btw. Greenwich & Washington Sts.)
For tickets ($35), call 888-596-1027
Also visit pennyarcade.tv and minkstole.com
On the other hand, Penny Arcade as the manipulative low-life Celeste (who lives by sponging off Trinket) is a more Brechtian presence, working the crowd like a music hall mama (she reminded me a little of Martha Raye).
This style of performance is well within Williams’ tradition too, though more in line with his lesser-known experimental works, which of course “The Mutilated” happens to be.
The play is full of fourth-wall-smashing direct address and similar techniques (such as poetry and songs). Chivu amps up the theatricality with a Greek chorus of seedy NOLA denizens, and lots and lots of terrific original music composed by Jesse Selengut and played by his jazz quartet Tin Pan. It all adds up to a magical gumbo and an evening of theatre you won’t soon forget.
Trav S.D. has been producing the American Vaudeville Theatre since 1995, and periodically trots it out in new incarnations. Stay in the loop at travsd.wordpress.com, and also catch up with him at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al. His books include “No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” and “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.”