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Off-Broadway Review: “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” at the Theatre at St. Clements (Through Sunday October 21, 2018)

Photo: Jean Lichty, Annette O’Toole, Kristine Nielsen, and Polly McKie in “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.” Credit: Joan Marcus
Off-Broadway Review: “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” at the Theatre at St. Clements (Through Sunday October 21, 2018)
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Austin Pendleton
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish;/Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;/Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;/Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” (Thomas Moore and Thomas Hastings/Samuel Webbe)

Sometimes the brokenhearted are aware on some non-conscious level of the impending inconsolable, melancholic, or woebegone event(s) about to befall them. They might find themselves not associating with friends, or cancelling social engagements, or like Dorothea (a delightful but desperately infatuated Jean Lichty) deciding not to answer the phone when expecting an important call from a new “suitor.” Near the end of her set of one-hundred “setting-up exercises,” Dorothea hears the phone ringing in the living room of the apartment she shares with Bodey (an ebullient and crestfallen Kristine Nielsen). Bodey is hard of hearing and claims not to have heard the phone ringing and proceeds to prepare the recently purchased fryers and deviled eggs for the lovely Sunday picnic at Creve Coeur Lake – just a short streetcar ride from the apartment.

Dorothea is upset and insists that Bodey put on her hearing aid and more intently listen for the call from Ralph Ellis the principal of the school where Dorothea teaches Civics. After a brief encounter in the back seat of Ralph’s car, Dorothea assumes her boss is “the one” she has been waiting for. During their “scuffle,” Helena (a brusque and overbearing Annette O’Toole), Dorothea’s co-worker at the school, arrives at the apartment to discuss “important business” with Dorothea. Also joining the trio is Bodey’s upstairs neighbor Miss Gluck (an irrepressible and indulgent Polly McKie) – the fourth member of the playwright’s intriguing lonely-hearts club.

Miss Gluck serves as the catalyst for the gradual unfolding of truth. As the other characters interact with her and collide with her, their hidden feelings and secrets are exposed as they project their loss and anger on her. This is a brilliant bit of writing by Tennessee Williams who seems to hover over the play somewhat like Tom Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” and reintroduce kaleidoscopic shards of the conflicts found in previous characters like Tom’s mother Amanda and sister Laura and Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Deception and dishonesty abound as the four women learn more about themselves and begin to understand the reality they need to face and accept the need to “move on.”

Although Dorothea insists to Bodey that “complexes and obsessions must not be cultivated,” she remains obsessed with the phone call from Ralph Ellis and the possibility they will soon wed. But all the women in “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” are cultivating complexes and obsessions and coming to terms with that cultivation is the enduring theme of Tennessee Williams’ play (here and elsewhere). Bodey is obsessed with hooking up her twin brother with Dorothea. Helena is selfishly obsessed with holding Dorothea to the promise she will room with Helena and assume half of the expenses. Dorothea is obsessed with the idea that the new apartment will be a place to entertain Ralph, and Miss Gluck is obsessed with the despair of loneliness and bereavement.

Austin Pendleton directs with a steady hand and keeps the action moving forward at a brisk pace on the stage of the Theatre at St. Clements. Harry Feiner’s set and lighting provide the “fiercely bright colors” of Bodey’s apartment that at the same time provide a refreshing palette for Bodey compared to her rather drab existence at International Shoe and challenges Helena’s naively ordered sense of her universe of the privileged and “elite.”

Perhaps a picnic on a lovely Sunday afternoon with skillet-fried plump chicken fryers and deviled eggs is the best remedy for a broken heart or for the disconsolate. At least the pain has temporarily subsided or has sufficiently numbed the distraught enough to “open” the heart to healing and the surcease of loneliness. Only time will tell for Dorothea as she heads out the door to meet Bodey and Buddy for perhaps her last chance for love. Tennessee Williams’ 1979 play “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” connects deeply with all (individuals, governments, nation-states) suffering the malaise of loss or lack of identity and the quest for independence that sometimes results in broken hearts. Perhaps there is a mercy-seat for all who languish with wounded hearts.

A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR

The cast of “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” includes Kristine Nielsen, Annette O’Toole, Jean Lichty, and Polly McKie.

The creative team includes Harry Feiner (Set and Lighting Designer), Beth Goldenberg (Costume Designer), Leah Loukas (Wig and Hair Design), Carrie Mossman (Prop Designer), Amy Stoller (Dialect Designer and Dramaturg), Ron Piretti (Fight Director), Stephanie Klapper (Casting Director), Gary Levinson (Production Manager), Marci Skolnik (Production Stage Manager), and Lisa Dozier King (General Manager).

“A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” runs at the Theatre at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street) on the following performance schedule: Wednesday – Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $55.00 - $99.00 and can be purchased by visiting www.LaFemmeTheatreProductions.org or by calling (866) 811-4111. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Jean Lichty, Annette O’Toole, Kristine Nielsen, and Polly McKie in “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.” Credit: Joan Marcus
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, September 24, 2018