The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company (TWTC) of New Orleans has done it again, successfully bringing another Tennessee Williams masterpiece to life. This time around it’s Vieux Carré, the emotion-packed story of a motley group of misfits living together in a New Orleans boarding house (based on the actual former residence of Williams himself). It’s the story of human interactions and human relationships, of joy and desire, flaws and frailty. And mostly, it’s the story of loneliness, and the great lengths we go to in order to avoid its crushing grip.
Jane (Megan Whittle) is a young girl living with her loser boyfriend, Tye (Levi Hood). Nightingale (Kyle Daigrepont) is an aging gay man seeking companionship as he slowly dies of tuberculosis. Miss Carrie (Janet Shea) and Miss Mary Maude (Adella Gautier) share a room together and are teetering on the brink of starvation, but they long for the glory days of their youth more than they do for something to eat. The photographer (Toriano Hayward) lives downstairs, photographing scantily clad models. Nursie (LaKesha Glover) does odd jobs around the boarding house while trying to avoid the bats. The writer (Jake Bartush) is new to town, broke, and is gradually being corrupted by the hard life of the French Quarter. And Mrs. Wire (Tracey E. Collins) is the cranky landlady who keeps watch over them all, with a mean demeanor but a soft heart.
Though this production is extremely funny in many parts, in typical Williams fashion, it also has a darker side. Tennessee Williams was usually quick to focus on the “sorrow of the human condition” and living in a “dishonest world.” In this production, you’ll both laugh at the state of human affairs and want to cry because of it.
Williams was a very skilled writer—“America’s Greatest Playwright”—but bringing his work to the stage is no small undertaking. Due to its intense subject matter and far-reaching themes, putting on a Williams production is a little bit like herding unicorns or teaching a rhinoceros to dance. But it’s always impressive how the TWTC never fails to do justice to all the many aspects of Williams’s multi-dimensional and impassioned plays. As usual, they never let their audience down. The acting is all top-notch, and there was not one performer who outdid another. From sex to abandonment to a “champagne girl” eaten by dogs, it’s all in this play, and it’s all handled with skill and with finesse. This production is humorous yet meaningful, thought-provoking but nonetheless entertaining. Frankly, it’s just damn good. Not to mention, the play is very New Orleans. Through the eyes of Tennessee Williams, the TWTC is proud to focus on New Orleans—its bats and cockroaches, its architecture and decay, its beauty and decrepitude, its excitement and vice, and even its food (Mrs. Wire spits in her gumbo to give it “extra flavor”)—in honor of the city’s tricentennial this year.
The final performances of Vieux Carré are this weekend. Go see this play; it’s definitely worth your time. Whatever brings you to the show—whether you love New Orleans, you’re a fan of Tennessee Williams, or you just enjoy good theater—you’re sure to be a fan of the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company.
Vieux Carré is playing at the Marigny Opera House, 725 Saint Ferdinand St., Thursday, August 23 thru Saturday, August 25. All performances at 7 p.m. Directed by Beau Bratcher; Co-Artistic Directors Augustin J. Correro and Nick Shackleford.
Photos by James Kelley.