Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Cast Does What It Can with 'Last Summer' Script

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Cast Does What It Can with 'Last Summer' Script

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Grey, Shorelines correspondent

Those who believe Anne Rice has cornered the market on death and eroticism in New Orleans better think again.

Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer features the same kind of Southern Gothic underbelly -- alcoholism, insanity, homosexuality, incest and a tiny bit of cannibalism -- without the Nosferatu chic. The only vampires here are metaphorical, but they are frightening enough in their own way.

The play opens outside the Garden District home of the Venables, where matriarch Violet (Bacot Wright) waxes poetic on the virtues of her son, Sebastian. Violet, who traveled with Sebastian for decades before she became incapacitated by a stroke, believes his death the previous year is the result of some action or inaction of his cousin, Catherine Holly (Beth Lambert), who had replaced her as Sebastian's companion.

The death itself has driven Catherine mad, and Violet has brought in Dr. "Sugar" (Michael Young), a practitioner of that new-fangled cure-all treatment called lobotomy, to see if he thinks Catherine might be a suitable candidate for an operation. Before making that decision, Sugar insists upon exploring the cause of Catherine's supposed dementia -- namely, the strange circumstances of Sebastian's death.

Charismatic, careless Sebastian Venable functions as the absent center of the play. Dead a year before the curtain even rises, his incredible presence lingers; his memory drives his cousin to the brink of madness and his mother to advocate an act just short of murder. Williams spends much of the play elucidating Sebastian's character, which results in Sebastian's ghost having a more commanding presence than the flesh and blood male characters who actually appear on stage.

Sugar and Catherine's brother, George Holly (A.J. Pratt), are thinly written, pathetically so. Pratt's George offers occasional flashes of comic relief in the almost unrelenting darkness of the text. Young's Sugar serves as a stand-in god, arbiter of life and death (or life and lobotomy). Yet neither really rises above the level of yes-man to the play's much more vibrant female leads. …

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