I've been going to a lot of theater in Providence lately. This is the first year that I've subscribed to the entire Trinity season. Last month I saw The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- a flawed play -- too freakin' long -- but a fun production of that flawed play was worth the trip.
I wish i could say the same for Suddenly Last Summer. An over-wrought production of an under-wrought playlet. Perhaps 50 years ago this play was shocking and surprising, but not anymore. The fully-realized-realistic set served as an opressive reminder of how far from the mark this work by Tennessee Williams is.
The only strength the play has is its evocative use of language, the imagery inherant in the language, and the heightened poetic form. By placing it in a highly detailed realistic setting the production seemed at odds -- and the poetic language was hammered into the "real-world" with dissapointing results.
A sparser production would have highlighted the language instead of overpowering it. The language would have been the landscape and we would have traveled with it with our imaginations, instead of scoffing at the old-fashioned morality and non-shock of the "shocking" ending. Having the grand house split and spill with light through its cracks did nothing for the final moments of the play except to underscore how much better something unreal would have served the entire production.