Most often a play freely invites you to experience the entire scope of its universe; it extends itself before you, arms wide open, encouraging you to consume everything down to the most minute nuance. The infinity of implications tied to the life inside the play sits on display for the audience and all access is welcomed.
Tennessee Williams’ play Suddenly Last Summer with conniving strategy reveals only slivers of its story, building audience intrigue beginning to end, until the massive release contained in the final chilling scene.
It is an intoxicating script of such quality that 90 minutes felt no longer than 30. However the best scripts require a worthy director’s breath of life, along with a group of skilled actors who are capable of entering into their director’s vision with total commitment. Otherwise the level of quality in the writing becomes washed into oblivion. Theatre Burlington’s current production of Suddenly Last Summer is an absolute success.
Tom Mackan is a very well–established director who can always adapt a clear vision of his goal. Mackan thrives when faced with a challenge. He pays attention to every detail and is motivated by the straightforward intention of illuminating exactly what is most poignant. Mackan’s unbending yet unpretentious spirit enables him to extract the most from his cast and crew, and to master the life inside his projects.
Suddenly Last Summer offers slices of itself until a picture begins to form. Well–crafted in the progression of scenes, this play wouldn’t work without the sculpting that exists behind its timeline.
Immediately we are introduced to a wealthy matriarch, whose spirit seems to contain a seed of evil — the source of which remains as a source of intrigue for the audience, and ultimately sets up the play’s intense foundation. Deb Dagenais is brilliant as Violet Venable, a widow of considerably cold character who sits in an old wooden wheelchair — which seems to carry a haunting presence of its own. The play is set in 1935 New Orleans.
The first glimpse of Tennessee Williams’ story is revealed when Violet converses severely with Dr. Cukrowicz (played by A.J. Haygarth, who uses a sort of rigid yet mysterious aura to conjure a compelling figure). Violet attempts to convince the doctor that a lobotomy is the only recourse for the young woman who witnessed her son’s death last summer, and whose resulting insanity must be put to an end.
We soon learn that the young woman is her own niece (though Violet stresses only by marriage) – she was the only person with Sebastian (Violet’s son) when the incident of his death occurred. Violet is bitter that she was unable to travel with Sebastian that last summer; he was a poet of popular social standing and fame. A picture is painted of Sebastian having been an almost mythically exciting central figure to the family, who garnered attention and status from his youthful popularity.
Natalie Ruginis, who plays Catharine Holly (the niece), gives a startlingly vibrant portrayal, going head to head with Deb Dagenais and ultimately matching her in skill. These two women are fantastic together; both conjure dagger–sharp emotion in their respective roles and hold the script up to its highest of standards. The smaller performances are weaker but do not damage the outcome – although it’s a close call for Carla Zabek as Sister Felicity, Catharine’s keeper since the incident.
Housing this production is an absolutely incredible set – I cannot give enough kudos to Dani Podetz for his design. This is all–round a very impressive production of a very impressive, intriguing play. V
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
Feb. 8-16. 8pm
Presented by Theatre Burlington
@ Drama Centre.
2311 New St., Burlington.
tix: (905) 637–1728