Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Suddenly Last Summer

Mrs Venable and Miss Holly rule the stage in a battle of wills at the Laura Pells Theater on West 46th. Blythe Danner and Carla Gugino weave Tennessee Williams' scandalous tale originally written in the early 20th century.

Violet and Sebastian - mother and son. What dark secret does this relationship hold? Why will Violet, the very rich and protective mother, go to the extreme of sending her niece to a mental hospital for a lobotomy?

Of course the answer lies in the fact that Sebastian was gay. His mother hid the secret all his life, but let him live his life in secret at home and through their worldly travels. But when he travels with his cousin Catherine instead of his mother this past summer things unravel. He's not able to deal in the same way he would have under the protective wing of his mother and ultimately that change is the cause of his horrific death on the street while traveling. The elderly Violet refuses to let this story get out and ruin her son's (and her) reputation, but her niece is "blabbing" the story all around. Violet's remedy is to seek out (and bribe) a doctor - (played rather stiffly by Gale Harold) who has a new procedure - the Lobotomy - to shut her up.

We learn about all the characters in Act I, and in Act II, when the doctor arrives, we ultimately hear the long, dramatic story of this past summer's vacation taken by Sebastian and Catherine in a poetic, dramatic, and poignant monologue. The crescendo, highlighted perfectly by a dramatic lighting effect, is, of course, the horrible death of Sebastian.

In what could only have been a shocking ending in its day - is the doctor's simple admission that perhaps the whole story could indeed be true, that Catherine is indeed not crazy, and not a candidate for the extreme procedure. (Lights Out).