Moving in and out of the space is a cast of dynamic, raw characters that seem to live beyond the production of the play and capture the tension of a Tennessee William’s play. Audience seats settled around a center stage give Theatre in the Round their accurate title, with the stage transformed into the scene of a luxurious New Orleans garden with gray-painted cobblestones beneath white, cast iron style outdoor tables inside the ring of greenery like a well-kept jungle.
Theatre in the Round opened “Suddenly Last Summer” on Friday October 14, for its three week run with a combination of set, sound design and acting that made the audience experience less like a suspension of disbelief and more a realization of fiction once the play came to a close.
Set late in 1937, the play follows Mrs. Venable as she demands to hear the story of her son Sebastian’s death from the only true witness, her niece Catherine Holly, with the assistance and judgement of Dr. Cukrowicz. She has hopes of convincing him to perform a lobotomy on the disturbed woman to fully hide the details of her son’s death and the circumstances leading up to it.
With a plot pivoting around the reveal of a single story, the cast drove every dramatic action forward with mounting anticipation in a swirling chasm of energy in the rounded stage. Characters moved in and out of the space in constant, agitating motion that built the tension up towards the final scene of Catherine’s story.
Dealing with taboo topics, the play applied hint of the sordid underpinnings of the plot with a light hand that forces a viewer to really stare between the lines to imagine the goings-on of the family depicted.
In the same way, the applied sound effects practiced such subtle control that the mounting climax of the play had much of the audience with chin in hand, leaning forward on the edges of their armrests, while the thrumming of an anxious heart beat over the sound system and the lights closed in on Anni Amberg, who played Catherine.
A lot of effort was put into designing the details of the performance, beyond just the balanced sounds effects, but to the stage as well.
“I walked into the space with no prior knowledge of the play and could immediately tell where and pretty much when it was going to take place,” Noelle Awada, a Hamline junior said. “The set design and staging were sharp, and they lent themselves well to the classic Tennessee Williams Southern Gothic style.”
From the three-wheeled antique wheel chair for a frail Violet Venable to the subtle shifts in lighting, every detail whisked the viewer into a scene from William’s play that captured the frenzied, cloaked passion of his one act piece. It’s an interpretation that brings his writing to life in an incomparable way.
The run for “Suddenly Last Summer” is from October 13 to November 5 with student discounts of Friday and Sunday shows for $15 tickets, so make sure to bring your student ID for discount.