Monday, November 12, 2018

For 'The Mutilated,' NoExit Performance finds itself at home in the Propylaeum Carriage House

Not as bloody-minded as the title might have you thinking, "The Mutilated" is one of Tennessee Williams' explorations of the challenges life keeps posing to wholeness and healing among the largely self-wounded. The wounds go deep, but are more felt than seen.

Williams was never one to soft-pedal his development of a theme, and the title of this 1966 drama serves to direct our attention to the secrets, hurts and shame of its main characters, who bring up their mutilation often. It's a cat fight in which both protagonists seem to have lost several of their nine flea-bitten lives.
Venting in the park: Trinket Dugan tries to exorcise her demons.

Female bonding is probably more durable than the kind men practice. Male friends would walk away from each other for good if they got on each other's nerves the way Trinket Dugan and Celeste Delacroix Griffin do in "The Mutilated." But the boil infecting their old friendship is lanced finally by a miracle; it's heralded in a song that the supporting cast gathers several times to sing like a "Threepenny Opera" anthem. It's Christmas Eve, and the holiday's mixed messages finally tilt toward the sacred one.

Ryan Mullins, artistic director of NoExit Performance, deftly directs that slice of humanity surrounding co-stars Gigi Jennewein and Beverly Roche as the flawed and flailing friends in a seedy part of  "the Quarter" in New Orleans, a city that haunts the Williams oeuvre. The Carriage House at the Propylaeum is the site for the peripatetic NoExit Performance to stage "The Mutilated."

There's nothing seedy about that place, but the presence of a balcony around two sides of the room evokes a prominent architectural feature of old New Orleans, even if it's used here mostly for interior scenes and not lacy ironwork on the outside. The slipshod attempts of Trinket and Celeste to decorate their lives and hide their mutilations are nicely suggested by their attire and by the set's furniture and a number of smaller props — a blend of deliberate reinforcements and haphazard acquisitions. Kipp Normand seems not to have missed a thing in his design.
Beverly Roche and Gigi Jennewein play two friends on the outs.

Jennewein's scene alone, as the faux-genteel Trinket shrieks her determination to shed an identity as "Agnes Jones," a kind of professional pseudonym she shares with Celeste, captured the blend of comedy and pathos that "The Mutilated" is rich in. I enjoyed the large-scale ranting she drew upon, suitable to the role as a cover for Trinket's guarded vulnerability at the margins. The portrayal was complemented by the more rambunctious injured energy of Beverly Roche's Celeste, freshly sprung from the hoosegow and open in her loutishness and amorality. There was no let-up or let-down in the sparks that flew between them in the show Sunday evening (it runs through Nov. 18).

Both Trinket and Celeste strive, often ineptly, to assert how much more they deserve than what they've been  given. Williams works, sometimes too obviously, to allow us to locate a basis of decency in people struggling for respectability without being certain they deserve it, and who tend to undercut their own efforts. The drama lies in their hunger for it. That appetite is faithfully presented in this show, whose touches of garishness and overstatement fall well within the Williams norm.

Matthew Walls and Mark Cashwell make for a believably roughneck pair of sailors on illegitimate shore leave, complicating the women's lives. Zachariah Stonerock plays the phlegmatic desk clerk at the hotel where the two women have been longtime residents, trying to shrug off their mutual hostility. A rogues' gallery of minor roles is capably filled by Doug Powers, Dan Flahive, Abby Gilster and Elysia Rohn, who also constitute a vocally fit chorus singing occasional commentary to a tune by Ben Asaykwee.

[Photos by Daniel Axler]

No comments:

Post a Comment