Toronto’s Hart House Theatre presents the Tennessee Williams play The Night of the Iguana through March 10, 2012.
Tennessee Williams was one of the most prolific playwrights of the 20th century. Many of us studied his work in school but despite his notoriety most people are probably only really familiar with a handful of plays out of the dozens he penned throughout his career.
The Night of the Iguana is not one of his better-known works. First-produced in 1961, the play takes place over the course of one night in Mexico during the ‘40s. It tells the story of Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, a disgraced minister who takes up a second career as a tour guide. He returns to a little, ramshackle seaside resort where he knows the recently-widowed owner Maxine Faulk. Once there he meets and develops a bond with Hannah Jelkes, a spinster artist who travels the world with her poet grandfather.
Though I wasn’t familiar with this particular work, Tennessee Williams’ style is instantly recognizable. The play is a study of the three main characters as they each approach an impasse in their lives. The resort serves as a sort of purgatory. The need for human connection is a central theme and the characters desperately try to establish a connection with one another throughout the course of the play.
Interestingly, though none of the main characters is particularly relatable or even sympathetic; all three are compelling in their struggle to overcome their circumstances. One of Tennessee Williams’ key strengths is his ability to write layered, complex and nuanced characters and this skill is very much in evidence in The Night of the Iguana.
David Ferry turns in a richly textured portrayal as Shannon. He’s particularly gripping as he takes his character through his descent to the brink of madness in the second act. His performance is measured and balanced and he’s able to keep his crazed, drunken outbursts from going too big and hitting the level of farce.
Allegra Fulton’s strong, sassy take on Maxine Faulk felt very contemporary to me, almost anachronistically so. Her character serves as a counterpoint to Kelly Bolt’s upright, proper and detached Hannah Jelkes.
Scott Penner’s lush set design and Dominic Manca’s lighting effectively transport the audience to the veranda of a resort in Mexico on a balmy summer night.
Though not as well-known as its more famous peers, The Night of the Iguana is nonetheless classic Tennessee Williams and the Hart House production, directed by Jeremy Hutton, is elevated by some wonderful design and great performances.
- The Night of the Iguana is playing at the Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle) until March 10, 2012
- Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8:00PM and Saturday at 2:00PM
- Tickets $10.00 to $25.00
- Tickets are available by phone 416.978.8849 or visit UofTtix.ca
- The company of The Night of the Iguana. Photo by Jaclyn Zaltz