Tennessee Williams seems to use similar themes and characters (often autobiographical) in his plays, mixed up in different and interesting ways. The strong and overbearing southern mother in this story is Mrs. Violet Venable, whose beloved son Sebastian died tragically and mysteriously suddenly last summer while vacationing in Europe with his cousin Catherine. Aunt Violet is resentful of Catherine for taking her place on her and Sebastian's summer vacations, and blames her for her son's death. Catherine has been committed to various psychiatric institutions since last summer, and Violet arranges for a meeting of the family (including Catherine's mother and brother) with a doctor who specializes in lobotomies (in case you didn't know, Williams' sister had a lobotomy at his mother's insistence, and it didn't go well - you can read more about that on TRP's website). But first, Catherine must tell the tale of Sebastian's death, and it's not a pretty one. In fact, it's quite horrifying, but well told by the playwright and this production.
|the cast of Suddenly Last Summer (photo by Roger P. Watts)|
This is a strong seven-person ensemble (including Ryan D. Maddox as the slightly creepy but well-meaning doctor, Muriel J. Bonnertz as Catherine's mother, and Bill Williamson as her brother), but the show really belongs to the two women playing Aunt Violet and her niece Catherine, two familiar Tennessee Williams characters. Annette Kurek as Violet is everything you want (formidable, amusing, terrifying) in the mother character, who loves her children but cannot see them for who they are. Anni Amberg is also wonderful as the fragile Catherine, and is absolutely mesmerizing in the long monologue about Sebastian's death at the end of the play.
|in the garden (photo by Roger P. Watts)|
Suddenly Last Summer continues for one more weekend only (performances Friday through Sunday). If you, like me, love Tennessee Williams' tragic family dramas and lyrical language, do yourself a favor and get to Theatre in the Round (the oldest theater in Minneapolis) this weekend.