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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA
at Berkshire Theatre Festival, New York

MORALLY CHALLENGED
By Sandy MacDonald

  The Night Of The Iguana at Berkshire Theatre Festival, New York

It's amazing what a lucid gem Tennessee Williams' last Broadway success, 1961's The Night of the Iguana, proves to be, once you strip away the miasma that Richard Burton's sturm und drang approach brought to John Huston's 1964 film version. In the recent Berkshire Theatre Festival rendition, directed by Anders Cato, Garret Dillahunt (best known for his dual roles on the HBO series Deadwood) portrayed the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon not as a hardened alcoholic fending off delirium tremens, but as an emotionally friable, albeit strapping young man whose curse - described as "the spook" - is not so much chemical as metaphysical.

A self-professed "gentleman" who considers himself above his present station - leading cut-rate tours through Mexico - this Shannon is the quintessential Williams character: a once-privileged soul whose promise has flown, leaving him, untenably, on the brink of helplessness and despair. Cato's pacing and Dillahunt's deft handling of the role brought out all the humor lurking in the text (Shannon is a sharp observer), without stinting on the tragedy.

Linda Hamilton, still taut from her Terminator days, might seem an odd casting choice for the "stout, swarthy" innkeeper, Maxine Faulk, with whom Shannon seeks sanctuary. Still, with a raw voice and low, ready laugh, Hamilton captured the new widow's unslakable sexual appetite - an elemental love of life is her survivor's edge -- and if she didn't quite measure up to Shannon's description of Maxine as "bigger than life and twice as natural," the line had added poignancy. Shannon's very downfall lies in the way in which he tends to mythologize his own small strivings, while alternately inflating and undercutting the travails of those around him. Like the iguana, he's not just tethered; he's also a monster of sorts.

The revelation at the heart of this production was Amelia Campbell as the itinerant Nantucket spinster, Hannah Jelkes. She enters compulsively nodding, a humble little accommodator delicate as a Hummel figurine, and emerges, in the course of a long, torturous night, as a figure of formidable strength, resembling, in her "Kabuki robe," Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, who forswears enlightenment until every creature on earth is so delivered. Determined, down-to-earth, the antithesis of prim, Campbell delivered a definitive interpretation.

Sandy MacDonald contributes to the Boston Globe and TheaterMania.com.

 

 


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