Actor’s Theatre of San Francisco presents …
Tennessee Williams

It takes two to speak the truth –
One to speak and another to hear.
Henry David Thoreau

I have always believed that the only place to see and understand the impact of social truth is on the stage. Here the playwright dares to show us what the historian and the biographer dare not say. We see the reality we have hidden from ourselves and we come face to face with the rationalizations we make to keep us from protecting the misunderstood. Nowhere is this more evident than in a Tennessee Williams production. This play takes place in the Garden District of New Orleans and reflects Williams’ anger at his domineering mother and his guilt because he was unable to stop her from having his sister Rose lobotomized. His sister appears in many of his plays and she is always, sensitive, beautiful and misunderstood. It is the magic of Williams’ writing that makes the world love her just as he did.

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER lays bare the prejudices and fear that surrounds homosexuality, even today. It makes us feel the power one unscrupulous human being has over the weak and vulnerable. That person is Violet Venable (Joyce Henderson). She is determined to cloak the memory of her son in chaste beauty and keep his true character a secret from everyone including herself. She uses every weapon her wealth gives her and cares not whom she harms in the process. She offers to finance the psychiatrist (Dr. Sugar, played by Mark Bird) if he will lobotomize her niece Catherine (Larissa Archer) because she knows what her son Sebastian was. Mrs. Venable uses the terms of Sebastian’s will to threaten to disinherit Catherine’s family leave them penniless. The woman is detestable and yet we understand the force of her motivation because we have felt it when we too have been desperate to hide the truth. We believe in her lack of scruples because we have all known and feared someone just like her in our own lives. Mrs. Venable is willing to use any means to conceal uncomfortable truth even from herself and her money is her weapon.

How many times have we known a truth that no one believes? How many times have we fought the horror of witnessing something we dare not describe? This knowledge and the horror of what Catherine saw has traumatized her, as well it should. She saw the brutality of her cousin’s death and that experience became an ever-present nightmare she cannot erase. The memory is so intense that when she is given a “truth” serum, she still cannot tell the story in the first person. It is too painful because it is real. “He – he was lying naked on the broken stones…and this you won’t believe! Nobody, nobody, nobody could believe it! It looked as if- as if they had devoured him!...” she says and we KNOW she is giving us truth.

The characters in this play are so real they could be your neighbors. There is good and bad in each of them and these actors give them life. Although, it is set in an earlier time and place, the action could take place as easily tomorrow as it did on that torrid summer day in Spain in 1930. It takes a talented and creative group to keep this drama valid and this cast is up to the challenge. Christian Phillips directs the production and his cast mesmerizes us from the moment the first line is spoken. The set keeps us there; the costumes are just right. This is a low budget play that would suffer from a more costly and elaborate production. SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is an experience painted in beautiful language that expresses the dark and sordid underbelly of being human. Joyce Henderson, Larissa Archer and Carol Robinson sweep us into their characters and Phillips pace keeps us there.

We leave the theater and the world we trusted seems different to us. We have seen its shadow and we wonder if we could be those people we just saw on that stage. Would we dare to destroy another to preserve a memory? Would we be so horrified by truth that it would destroy us?

You owe it to yourself as a human being and as a lover of fine literature to experience this compelling production. It continues until March 27, 2010. It is not to be missed.
Ye shall know the truth,
And the truth shall make you mad.
Aldous Huxley
Where: Actors Theatre
855 Bush between Mason & Taylor
Box Office: 415 345 1287
Performances Thursday-Saturdays 8 pm
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