The Night of the Iguana is a depressing tale of defrocked Episcopal priest, Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon (Rob Conway). Tennessee Williams’s play, set in the steaming tropics of costal Mexico at the outbreak of WWII, began on Broadway in 1961, was made into films in 1964 and 2000, and this year Joni Mitchell’s title song on her album, Shine is a thematic and lyrical adaptation.
Watching Shannon deteriorate is interesting in a sadistic way. Conway’s interpretation of a nervous breakdown includes an almost panic delivery and physical mannerisms that are unique, but work for his character. Shannon is a tour guide. His current group, a Texas women’s church group, is quite unhappy with him. Miss Judith Fellowes (Kirsten Gallon) is the leader of the hate-Shannon group partly because underage Charlotte Goodall (Kelly Wood) slipped into his hotel room spent a night. Now proclaiming her love for him.
He has brought his group to an out-of-the-way inn run by Maxine Faulk (Sarah Ditges). Recently widowed, she is interested only in Shannon’s wasted body. She has her own problems too. A German couple, ecstatic over Hitler’s early victories, are totally obnoxious. Ruth Eigner and Michael Dean Grulli rudely play Fran and Walter Fuhrenkopf. They are easily disliked.
Another couple staying at the inn is 39-year-old artist Hanna Jelkes (Holly Stephenson) and her 97-year-old poet grandfather, Nonno (Ed Eigner). We only wish he were on just a bit more. A convincing performance by an excellent actor. They have come to an end of their finances. She is having trouble selling her paintings. He is working on his latest poem.
The Night of the Iguana is Lawrence Shannon’s story. Conway is never off the stage. Throughout the play, we get bits and pieces of this sick, sick man. Conway is totally convincing as a mentally unstable man. There are so many demons inside his character that it would take more than one play to find them all. The only truly compassionate soul in Shannon’s desolate life is Hannah Jelkes. Watching Stephenson and Conway play off of each other is very interesting. It is good study in contrasts.
The production, alas, even with some fine performances and a couple of nice cameos, is uneven. Accepting Conway’s interpretation of a breakdown, which I do, creates a difficult task for those playing opposite him. Only Stephenson balances him. This is a very difficult play to perform and to direct. OnStage Playhouse took a chance on such a heavy drama. Very few theatres would dare.
Rob Conway, Sarah Ditges, Jackie Hendrickson, Ed Eigner, Kelly Wood, Holly Stephenson, Ruth Eigner, Michael Dean Grulli
Total Rating: Twp Stars
Author: Tennessee Williams
Director: David Blaise Meredith
Date Reviewed: November 25, 2007
Dates: Weekends thru November 30, 2007
Running Time: 145 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Caution Guidance: Adult themes
OnStage Playhouse – A Community Theatre
291 Third Avenue
Chula Vista, CA
Box Office Phone: 619 422-RSVP