” By far one of the mostpersonal shows I have seen, this play seems to speak to each audience memberuniquely; I at least found this true of Furman Theater’s presentation. Althoughthe leading roles lacked in their presentation, the supporting characters whereconvincing and extremely engaging, pulling the intimate theater’s audience intothe story. Overall, the production elements heightened the audiences viewingexperience. Costuming and scenery complemented each other particularly well,creating an environment and period that enveloped the audience in the play’ssetting. Without a doubt, this was a job well done for Furman Theater.
Maxine isthe proprietor of The Costa Verde, a cheap Mexican motel. Her character isestablished from the first few moments of the play along with her Mexican”night-swimmers. ” Their personalities exude an odd mixture ofpromiscuity, loneliness, and satisfaction. With the entrance of the onceminister now tour guide, Larry Shannon, and his bus load of ladies from theBaptist Female College, this satisfaction is eliminated and replaced with thepain of indecency in a defrocked minister. Shannon’s justification for arrivingat the Costa Verde is to rest and escape form the constant chatter and upliftingsongs of the female tour group. But in reality, his condition is much moreserious; he is both mentally and physically ill and feels as though the CostaVerde can act as a safe haven from the rest the world.
With his tarnishedreputation in the church, Shannon also has a need to be atoned for the sins hehas committed. In doing this, he hopes to purify himself enough to return thepulpit. The insatiable need for companionship and understanding are recognizedimmediately in both Shannon and Maxine. Regardless of the sarcastic commentsbetween the two, the audience is easily convinced that both characters couldprovide friendship for the other. Unfortunately, with the entrance of HannahJelkes, a quick sketch artist, and her “ninety-year young” grandfatherand poet, Nonno, Williams no longer elaborates on the the relationship of Maxineand Shannon; instead he shifts focus to Shannon’s admiration for Ms.
Jelkesthrough his constant use of “fantastic. ” Shannon and Hannah’s bond isestablished from their first hello. Shannon’s face seems to say, “Wherehave you been all my life?” Even though her reaction is not as strong inthe beginning, she steadily warms to his character. The two become fast friends,eventually uncovering each others the deepest secrets; Shannon revealing hispedophile tendencies while Hannah explains her two “love experiences. “As in Moliere’s Misanthrope, the two main characters seem so different in thebeginning, but we finally discover the two are very similar through thecompassion as well as the conversations between Hannah and Shannon.
It isbecause of these similarities that they could not “travel” together. It is in these final scenes that each character seems to realize their place;Shannon excepts his need for the companionship of Maxine, Hannah realizes herneed for stability, and Nonno feels the desire to finish his final poem. Withthese revelations, Nonno dies peacefully. As Assistant Stage Manager, I foundmyself watching the play on several occasions; therefore, my opinion may have atendency to be more in favor of or contrarily, a bit harsh on the acting anddirection of the show. It must first be said that in theater giving someone achance to play a role is necessary for the development of an actor’s ownability. Unfortunately, it seemed that Oney took too great of a risk whencasting Meggin Stailely as the forty-year-old spinster.
Granted, her performanceprogressively improved during the run of the show, but it never peaked. At timesthe actress seemed almost angelic with her bright eyes and young figure. Herperformance as Hannah Jelkes was not only unconvincing, but her movements onstage were awkward and unnatural. Makeup, costume, and the director’s blockingcould possibly be to blame for the shortcomings in her character, but from thefirst rehearsal to the last performance, Stailey’s portrayal of Hannah seemedunimproved.
Stailey was not the only upset in this performance of “TheNight of the Iguana. ” Doug Cummins, who played the role of the defrockedminister, Larry Shannon, was equally unsettling. The personality of LarryShannon is one of uncertainty and confusion. Although Cummins understood hischaracter, the actor went to far, making the audience question his motives. Throughout the show, he stuttered and stumbled through lines. Although thiscould have been his dramatic interpretation of Larry Shannon, Cummins was notsuccessful in distinguishing between his acting blunders and the characterspersonality.
Despite the disappointing performances of both Stailely andCummins, the supporting roles of the Nonno and Maxine, played respectively byRhett Bryson and Kristin Stultz, were considerably more enjoyable. Some wouldprobably agree that Bryson was destined to play the part of Jonathan Coffin, theninety-year-old poet. His delivery and timing were perfect. Also, whether it befrom the spastic movements of Cummins or inconsistency of Stailey’s character,Nonno’s presence seemed to the alleviate the tension of the audience.
Overall,his performance was uplifting and refreshing; then again much of the samecomments can easily be said for the old widow, Maxine. Stultz’s performance wasconsistent throughout, from her first on stage laugh to the final coaxing ofShannon. It was her energy and the strong nature of Maxine that carried the playat times. None the less, the acting of this production could not surmount to theinnovative elements of production involved in the play. The aural and visualelements of “The Night of the Iguana” were by far the most appealingaspects of the show.
The opening music was particularly well matched with theshow, establishing a mood as soon as the the play began. Sound also brought themost realistic quality to the stage with its creative rain and thunder claps. Serving their purpose well, these sound bites readily convinced many audiencemembers of the upcoming storm. Sound clips, such as the screaming women, had thepotential of being over the top but were done tastefully. Although at timesunnoticeable, the subtlety of the sounds employed made the audience an evencloser part of the events taking place.
The lighting used set the mood of theplay immediately, giving the audience a sense of anger in the blazing sun andnear depression as well as desperation in the the cool blue haze of night. Withthis in mind, only in adding climate control to the elements of production couldthis have been better done. To establish the locale of the play, fern patternswere used in the lighting, which gave The Costa Verde its aged affect. Theillumination of the tiny motel rooms worked well, enhancing the shadows of Nonnocomposing his poem and Shannon in his rage. By lighting the cubicles, it wasalmost as though two stories were able to run simultaneously.
Although subtle,it was these individual functions of lighting that seemed to reinforce thecentral image of the play, while complimenting the aural, wardrobe, and scenicelements. A tip of the hat should definitely go to lighting and sound designersof “The Night of the Iguana” for an all-encompassing creative butrealistic designs. Bryson contributed yet another masterpiece to the show’screative scenic design. Not only did the set assist in establishing the mood ofthe play, but it also created a style which flowed well with the other facets ofproduction. The drab, worn colors used throughout the set were especiallyeffective in creating the emotions intended by the play write.
Worn wood,gossamer scrim, the rusting tin roof – it was these set pieces along with theircolors and textures that were able to create a realistic locale and style. Thelive plants were a nice touch as well as giving the audience that reoccurringfeeling of reality in the show’s technical design. Overall, the makeup andcostume designs of Kathleen Gossman were none other than spectacular. Althoughmakeup was sparingly used in the production, not much was needed to portray thedepression and loneliness of many of the characters. At times it seemed asthough Nonno may have been the rosiest of the cast, but he had good cause sincehe was the happiest. Hannah, on the other hand, would have benefited and playeda more convincing character if age enhancing makeup had been used.
Granted theage makeup would have been difficult to use on the intimate thrust stage, butsome makeup would have been acceptable. Up until her age was given in thedialogue, the audience might have guessed her to be in her mid-twenties. Fortunately the actual costume design was a more successful endeavor than itscounterpart. Although, outside the context of the play, the costumes were notnecessarily appealing to the eye, they were consistent with the other aspects ofproduction. The audience is again reminded of the heat with the appearance ofsweat stains on actors. Although the stains were fake and a minor addition tocostumes, they worked well in establishing the locale and to some extent thenature of the characters.
The fabrics used by costume design were yet anotherquality that seemed to satisfy the objectives of design. Linen, for example hasnever been put to such good use. Whereas many people would stray from using thewrinkly fabric, Gossman used this shortcoming to her advantage to enhance thetired, worn out appearance of many of the characters, such as Larry and Nonno intheir white linen suits. Using linen, although simple as it may sound, helpedestablish the nature of characters.
Take Ms. Fellowes for instance. On firstappearance, her character is set. Not only has she discovered the truth aboutShannon’s unsaintly ways, but she is hot and tired. It is her wrinkled anddisheveled outfit that seems to exude her emotions perfectly.
Other examplesinclude the green tones used in Hannah’s dress, which mixed well with thegreenery of her environment, the playful attire of Charlotte, the well pressedlook of Jake Latta, and even the Mexican’s body paint. It was this attention todetail that made “The Night of the Iguana” so realistic. As a whole,the production elements incorporated into Furman Theater’s “The Night ofthe Iguana” gave the show life, which the major roles lacked. All fouraspects of production intermingled well and created a setting which pulled theaudience into the world of the Costa Verde. As far as the actual acting in”The Night of the Iguana” is concerned, the lead actors seemed to fallshort of giving an accurate representation of their characters.
Both Stailey andCummins emitted a feeling of uncertainty in their acting which in turn gave me,the audience, a feeling of discomfort. Had it not been for the livelyperformances of such minor characters as the sixteen year old Charlotte Goodall,played by Megan Prewitt, “the butch vocal teacher,” Ms. Fellowes,Maxine and undoubtedly Nonno, this performance would have been significantlyless interesting.