Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

You gotta have faith

May 12, 2008

Geoff Elliott and Deborah Strang
Photo : Craig Schwartz 2008

Luckily for those of us not getting married to the son of big tobacco in front of a limestone cross last weekend, there were plenty of other entertainment options. In my case, I went over to A Noise Within in Glendale for their current production of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana, which in some ways seemed reminiscent of imagined events in the state of Texas. Both sets of characters reel under the influence of faith in the midst of a very hot day. Williams' disparate souls tend to have more complicated and interesting issues to resolve and ANW’s cast and crew have mounted another very fine production of this American classic.

I have a soft spot for this mid-Century psychoanalytic stuff and I’ve always felt that ANW is particularly skilled with this sort of material. The cast of course features many of the company’s regulars – Geoff Elliott as Rev. Shannon, Deborah Strang as Maxine Faulk, and Jill Hill as the “Nantucket spinster” Hannah Jelkes. Elliott, of course, can be overwrought at times, and the success or failure of the productions he stars in often rest on how well the piece tolerates this approach. Rev. Shannon and his desperation seem a good fit here, and Elliott is completely believable. Hill seems to be channeling Katherine Hepburn in a part that seems to be more or less written as a character Hepburn played in many other places. But the real glue that holds this together is Strang who is the biggest and best reason to see this revival of Iguana. She is all flesh and unbridled desire and veritably steals every seen she is in.

Director Michael Murray wisely keeps the focus on the underlying religious aspects of the play.
Williams is interested, more than anything, not simply in how his characters deal with their faith but, more broadly, human mercy and kindness. Murray finds not just tormented souls but one's that can still express their divine qualities. The production will run through May 25.

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