Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review of Suddenly Last Summer at Raven Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Suddenly Last Summer. It was written by Tennessee Williams, and it was directed by Jason Gerace. It was about a woman named Catherine Holly (Grayson Heyl) who is taken from a mental asylum to visit her aunt Mrs. Venable (Mary K. Nigohosian) to explain the death of her aunt's son, which Catherine witnessed. She has been telling the same insane story about what happened, which her aunt doesn't believe. So Mrs. Venable hires a doctor, Dr. Cukrowicz (Wardell Julius Clark), also known as Dr. Sugar, to practice his untraditional procedures on her in order to make her tell the truth. It is about the definitions of insanity, desire, and truth. I think this is a very interesting show with an intriguing storyline.

Sebastian does not ever appear in the show, but he does seem to be the main character. His choices affect the play and his actions have consequences even though he is dead. It is not explicitly said, but it seems like he is gay. It is rare to have a main character who is gay at the time this was written, but it is not a positive portrayal, which kind of burst my bubble. I think I expected a more positive portrayal of a gay man from a gay man, but it seems like even though Williams had relationships with men, he didn't always think being gay was acceptable. It makes me sad to think that somebody wouldn't accept themselves and whenever they decided to go with their instincts they felt dirty for it.

We learn about Sebastian through his mother and his cousin. They both have very different ideas of who he was. Mrs. Venable thinks that he was a perfect mama's boy who charmed everyone and was a virgin. Catherine sees a darker side, which is that he takes advantage of young boys, drinks a lot, and is terrified of poor people. Everyone (except Dr. Sugar, who keeps an open mind) thinks Catherine is crazy, but it also seems like Mrs. Venable is not completely right in the head because she refuses to consider anyone else's opinion and if she doesn't like what somebody says she has violent reactions. She thinks her son is a poet, but he has only written one poem a year. She doesn't understand why no one has discovered him yet, even though he hasn't published his work, which seems delusional. I think it is eerie to consider how the person accusing someone of being crazy might be crazy herself.

Mrs. Venable has many people working for her, directly and indirectly. Miss Foxhill (Jayce Caraballo), Mrs. Venable's secretary, was very quiet throughout the show. She didn't express her opinion, but the entire time she seemed to be thinking. She also seemed to be scared a lot of the time; it made me suspicious about what was going on in the house and what her role in the family was. I think that it is really hard to play a character who is on stage a lot but doesn't say much because you need to still convey the emotions through a quiet character. I think Caraballo did a great job with that; she was very interesting to watch. Sister Felicity (Ayanna Bria Bakari)is not directly employed by Mrs. Venable, but Mrs. Venable pays the asylum she works for. The sister seems to have a mind of her own and will not always obey orders from some woman with more money than her. I think that is a nice contrast between Sister Felicity and Miss Foxhill. Dr. Sugar is someone who has a lot of tolerance for Mrs. Venable's whims because he is hoping she will make a donation to his hospital. But in the end he wants to stand up for what he believes is true. Something that is interesting about the character is that even though he accepts a bribe at the beginning of the show, he seems to be one of the most reasonable and moral characters in the play.

People who would like this show are people who like one-poem-a-year poets, complex characters, and naked baby cannibals (trust me). I think this is a really crazy and interesting show. There are some good performances, and it really makes you think a lot about the meaning behind what you just watched.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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