By Tennesee Williams. Directed By Austin Pendleton. At the Pearl Theatre Company. (CLOSED)
For it's final show at its St. Mark's Space, the Pearl Theatre has also chosen to do their first Tennesee Williams play. And not just any Tennesee Williams' play, a late-period work that would be notorious for its initial reception were it not instead largely forgotten. Vieux Carre, an auto-biographical, somewhat impressionist quasi-sequel to The Glass Managerie has critics split. NYTheatre, Backstage and Variety are grateful for the opportunity to discover a hidden diamond in the rough while Theatremania and CurtainUp maintain that there are reasons why some plays remain obscure.
(Martin Denton) The Pearl Theatre Company, wrapping up their 25th season, is giving audiences a chance to savor and ponder and wrap themselves up in this lesser known Williams piece. It turns out to be a shiny diamond that somehow got overlooked, hovering as it was in the shadow of The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire and those other famous plays. Do not miss your chance to see it, in an affecting production that's been brilliantly staged by Austin Pendleton.
(David Sheward) Heartbreaking isolation is what Williams wanted to capture in this autobiographical work and director Austin Pendleton sensitively exposes it like a physician treating a charity ward full of society's outcasts... Despite these echoes of past works and some overwrought sex scenes, Williams' trademark compassion for the weary and the lost shines through. The Pearl company illuminates their struggles with intensity and restraint.
(Marilyn Stasio) Hard to believe it took the Pearl, the very model of a responsible classical repertory company, 25 years to do a Tennessee Williams play. Tardy though it may be, this staging of Vieux Carre -- produced in 1977 and rarely seen since -- is a well-chosen example of how an enterprising rep house can serve a bit of nouvelle cuisine to faithful subscribers nourished on Shakespeare and Shaw. By salting the resident company with guest thesps from other venues, visiting director Austin Pendleton also provides a piquant taste of the interactive dynamic in this most theatrical of theater towns.
Time Out New York B-
(Diane Snyder) The Pearl Theatre Company demonstrates that gems like Vieux Carré, which lasted only 17 performances on Broadway in 1977, contain a lyrical luster—especially in Austin Pendleton’s affecting and engaging revival. ...Despite bits of awkward staging (sending the actors through the audience for exits and entrances), Pendleton and his cast find the heartbreak in Williams’s “shadowy occupants.” They just don’t always bring them to light.—
(Adam R. Perlman) Unfortunately, while Vieux Carré certainly feels like Tennessee Williams, it just doesn't feel like a play. In his other works, Williams builds intricate drama amidst decaying Southern atmosphere; but Vieux Carré is simply all atmosphere. The evening is essentially a series of short stories linked by location and an all-but invisible narrator... Beyond eliciting the mostly admirable acting, director Austin Pendleton hasn't done the production many favors. Working with set designer Harry Feiner (and with the theater's limited vertical height), the action is largely set on or about a center stage bed forced into yeoman's duty (now it's The Writer's room, now the hallway, now the young lovers', and so on). The unfortunate effect is the feeling that the action revolves around The Writer, rather than that he rattles around the outskirts, watching and wanting. As a result, we're made all the more aware of the lack of central drama in the play.
(Elyse Sommer) While Helmer Austin Pendleton has gone out of his way to recreate the atmosphere of the boarding house where Williams stayed just long enough to absorb this mother lode of inspiration, his directorial ideas don't always work. I can appreciate why he chose to have the various rooms in the boarding house on one level and without any visible dividers to differentiate between the various rooms. Having the characters move upstage when not part of the action so that the one center stage bedroom serves as Mrs. Wire's, Jane's, Nightingale's and the narrator's room fits the dreamy atmosphere of the mature narrator evoking memories from long ago. I suppose Pendleton's enclosing that single set with a doorless back, so that the actors keep entering and exiting via the two aisles also makes sense in terms of emphasizing the connection between the shabby, dead-to-life interior and the life pulsing outside. However, without a trace of anything to suggest New Orleans (a projection of the street on that bare enclosure might have helped) there's a lack of atmosphere and, all that up and down the aisle movement tends to be distracting to the point of annoyance. The cast too is uneven.
NYTR A 13; BS A- 12; V B+ 11; TONY B- 9; TM D+ 5; CU D+ 5; TOTAL: 55/6 = 9.2 (B-)