There are ordinary playwrights, and then there’s Tennessee Williams. Always darkly honest, the playwright from the southern United States was never shy about putting all the secrets of his troubled characters onstage for the audience to face.
His play “The Night of the Iguana,” now being staged by the English-language Little Theatre Group (LTG) at the Blanche Brown Theatre in the western suburb of Escazú, lives up to the writer’s reputation. And as for the LTG cast, it does the play plenty of justice.
Set in 1940s Mexico, the play tells the story of Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon (played by Tom Humes), a former minister now working as a tour guide, who has been accused of raping a 16-year-old named Charlotte (Lindsey Gutiérrez) on one of his tours. As a part of the tour his group wasn’t expecting, he takes them to the Costa Verde Hotel run by his friend Fred, only to find out when he gets there that Fred has died, leaving the place in the hands of his promiscuous widow Maxine Faulk (Lisa DeFuso).
That afternoon an artist named Hannah Jelkes (Pilar Saavedra-Vela) and her poet grandfather Nonno (Harry Towne) show up without any money asking for a room. Shannon convinces Faulk to let them stay the night, and soon enough they get wrapped up in all the action.
In the course of one day Shannon faces sexual advances by Maxine, is fired from his tour company thanks to the righteous Miss Fellowes (Vicky Longland), must hide from and then face the lovesick Charlotte and battle with the booze while avoiding a nervous breakdown. During all of this, Shannon develops a bond with the innocent and caring Jelkes that ends in… well, you know Tennessee Williams.
Though individually stumbling over a few lines, together the cast had great chemistry and worked in sync, marching to the beat of director Ann Antkiw’s drum. The senile, lyric-spouting Nonno was a character written to be a standout, and Towne met the demand of being the only character to consistently bring a smile to the face of the audience as the problems of the characters, and even his own, came more to light.
As Shannon, Humes is the play’s center of gravity,with a mindset halfway between “fantastic” and “realistic”(you’ll have to see the play for a better explanation), and makes the highly flawed character someone you want to see redeemed.Humes has had a lot of experience acting in and directing Little Theatre Group productions, so it’s no surprise he knows his way around the tiny Escazú stage.
DeFuso plays Faulk with precision. With each line she delivers, you can tell there’s something calculated behind it. Crass and self-centered, her character doesn’t expect too much out of life but still thinks she deserves what she wants, including the iguana that two Mexican boys catch and tie up under the stairs to fatten and eat later.
Though the audience never sees the creature, the frightened iguana trying to claw free of its captors becomes symbolic of the characters stuck in the hotel confronted by their own fears. All seek liberation.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., through June 10. Tickets cost ¢3,000 ($5.80), ¢1,500 ($2.90) for students. For reservations or information, call the theater’s box office at 355-1623 or visit www.littletheatregroup.org.