Tennessee Williams (one of my favorite playwrights), is most well-known for the American Southern tragedies he wrote in the '40s and '50s - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and my personal favorite, The Glass Menagerie. Creve Coeur, written in 1979, is one of his later works but definitely bears a resemblance to those earlier plays. Set in St. Louis in the 1930s and focusing on one day in the lives of four women, it features the obligatory desperately and tragically in love Southern woman. Dotty has recently moved from Memphis to teach Civics in the local school, and is rooming with Bodey, a German woman intent on setting Dotty up with her twin brother (the title refers to the location of a picnic she's planning). But Dotty is in love with the school principal, and spends the day waiting for his phone call. Her friend and fellow teacher Helena drops by to collect money for the apartment they're planning to share in the nicer part of town. Helena looks down on Bodey and her shabby and colorful apartment. Bodey is fiercely protective of Dotty (and her plot to marry her to her brother), and tries to prevent Helena from telling her some devastating news. Complicating the situation is a visit from the upstairs neighbor Sophie, grieving the recent death of her mother and afraid to be alone in her apartment. There's no happy ending for any of these women (this is Tennessee Williams, after all), but as Dotty says, "We must pull ourselves together and go on. Go on, we must just go on, that's all that life seems to offer - and demand."
|Suzanne Warmanen and Sara Richardson|
All of this takes place in a very realistic apartment, because it is a real apartment. Walking through the door next to Open Eye, you are presented with a long narrow room with high ceilings. First are few rows of chairs and stools for the audience, followed by the living room area opening up to the kitchen behind. Stairs on the right go up to the upstairs apartment. Colorful wall hangings and props adorn the space, and it's hard to tell which came with the space and which were brought in for the production, so organic does it feel. The four women move around the space, from the open door letting in cold air behind the audience, to the living room, kitchen, stairs, and even bathroom (which the audience members can use before the show and during intermission). Bodey really fries chicken (you can hear and smell it) and makes deviled eggs in the kitchen. The period costumes (by Clare Brauch) also feel authentic, from the frumpy housedresses of the German women, to Helena's beautiful period dress and hat, as pretty and proper as she is, and Dotty's simple but pretty new dress. It all feels very real.
I once wrote "Tennessee Williams did not write comedies," although maybe he did, as this play is much lighter than his usual southern tragedy. But there are still elements of that tragedy, in a woman grieving her beloved mother, another desperately in love with a man who is not who she thinks he is, another hanging all of her hopes for happiness on someone else's possible relationship, and one who seems cold and selfish but is really just longing to not be alone.
With just 40 seats and a reduced performance schedule, tickets may be hard to come by (the performance I attended was sold out), but it's worth the effort. There are a few discount tickets left on Goldstar, otherwise call or get your tickets online at the Gremlin website. Don't miss this chance to see a lesser known work by one of America's greatest playwrights, brought to very real life by a great cast in an authentic location.