By Lynn Venhaus
One of Tennessee Williams’ most humorous one-act plays, “A Perfect Analysis Given By a Parrot,” will be the next radio play presented by the Tennessee Williams Festival St, Louis on “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air.”
It will first air on Saturday, Aug. 8, at 5 p.m. on 107.3 FM. You can listen live or you can listen later through several platforms. It is archived at the station’s website and there is an encore Aug. 13 at 10 p.m. They are available for nearly two weeks before the next one. This third show is sponsored by the Jane and Bruce Robert Foundation.
This one is a charmer. I enjoyed the production when it was first presented during the inaugural TWSTL in May 2016. It was staged at the Curtain Call Lounge, with this same cast, under the direction of Brian Hohlfeld.
Intrigued by the title? Set at a dive bar in St. Louis, “A Perfect Analysis Given By A Parrot” follows Flora and Bessie, two proud members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Sons of Mars, who have traveled from Memphis for the annual convention. All Flora and Bessie want is a good time, but they have been ditched by the conventioneers they have followed. Unfamiliar with the territory, they wonder into a place intent on whooping it up. While drinking fishbowls of beer and listening to sentimental tunes, the pair begin a light-hearted conversation, then loosen up as old memories are stirred. The women, whose relationship could be considered “frenemies,” assess each other’s lives, revealing loneliness and longing.
As I recall, Rachel Tibbetts and Kelley Weber were very good as the two aging Southern Belles, and Bob Harvey, always fun to watch, was the waiter. Always a twinkle in his eye.
This should be a delightful radio play, to hear Williams’ distinctive wordplay, with an amusing display of merriment. Everyone so far has been an excellent listen and so different. This summer series celebrating Williams’ one-act plays is produced by Carrie Houk, artistic director, and programmed every other Saturday. Each episode is introduced by Ken Page, in his signature silky style. Don’t forget to stay afterwards to listen to University of Illinois professor Tom Mitchell provide insights about Williams’ work.
“The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” was the first, on July 11, sponsored by Mary Strauss, which was terrific in establishing the time, place and characters. Set in a seedy New Orleans boarding house, a delusional long time tenant Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore is convinced that she owns a Brazilian rubber plantation. Shades of Blanche DuBois! (a prototype for sure). The landlady, Mrs. Wire, has always humored her, but when Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore can’t make her rent, the two women start to argue. As if the walls could talk, a young writer steps in, and his dreams are part of the fantasies of those living in this cockroach-infested place.
Williams’ yearning, his desire to fit in, his characters with their fanciful stories — all there. You create these Southern places in your head. The images are vivid, and the production values strong. Nisi Sturges, sublime in last year’s “The Night of the Iguana,” played Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore with impeccable Southern airs, while Rayme Cornell was various degrees of stern as the landlord and Bradley Tejeda intriguing as the mysterious writer (He could have had his own one-act. Maybe he did?).
“This Property is Condemned” was the second one, on July 25. Rising star Elizabeth Teeter, a fine young performer who has appeared in three Broadway shows and starred as Dorothy in the Variety Club’s enchanting “The Wizard of Oz,” played Willie with the right amount of bravado and wistfulness. Tony Merritt II, a Webster Conservatory student, was strong as Tom. It was directed by Tim Ocel, who has beautifully helmed some of the mainstage shows and is guiding five of this summer offering.
You might recall “This Property is Condemned” as a 1966 movie starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. They play town flirt Alva and out-of-town railroad employee Owen respectively, who meet in Ogden, Miss., during the Depression. Alva dreams of getting out of the two-bit town.
The play, however, is told by Alva’s sister, Willie, who meets a guy, Tom, on the abandoned railroad tracks, and tells the story in flashback — about Alva, her mom, Owen and other characters. Williams’ frequent themes — grass is always greener, exaggerated grandiosity— are there, as are his finely drawn female characters.
What makes these radio plays – only about 20 minutes each – so special is that Williams’ voice is so recognizable in each of these one-act plays. He wrote many of them during his formative years here in St. Louis, and it’s interesting to see the progression of his work. What a bright, brilliant mind early on whose life influenced all his writings, from start to finish.
Don’t miss these little gems, featuring some of the best and brightest talents using another ‘muscle’ — their voice. For Aug. 8, if you are unfamiliar with Rachel Tibbetts, she is one of the best and most versatile actresses in town, and veteran actress/teacher Kelly Weber won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award last year for another Tennessee Williams one-act, “A Lovely Sunday in Creve Coeur.”
And it’s just fun to catch the names of the local landmarks.
Next up: “Hello from Bertha” Aug. 22 5 p.m., streaming until Sept. 4, one of the “Rooming House Plays” that I adore.
Starring: Anita Jackson, Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger, directed by David Kaplan, sponsored by John Russell
“Summer at the Lake,” Sept. 5, streaming until Sept. 18
Starring: Donathan Walters, Rayme Cornell, Kelley Weber; directed by Tim Ocel, sponsored by Mary Strauss
“Mr. Paradise,” Sept. 19, streaming until Oct. 2
Starring: Elizabeth Teeter, J. Samuel Davis, directed by Tim Ocel, sponsored by Terry Schnuck
Listen online through:
Classic 107.3 Apple app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/classic-107-3/id635075917
On Radio.com: Android or Apple app https://www.radio.com/classic1073/listen
On demand with SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/raf-stl
For more information: www.twstl.org/something-spoken