REVIEW OF ORPHEUS DESCENDING BY Les Spindle for Frontiers Magazine

By Tennessee Williams
BY Les Spindle for
Frontiers Magazine

Though it’s not usually listed among Tennessee Williams’ greatest works, “Orpheus Descending” (1957) provides for irresistible entertainment. The trick in making this mix of mythological symbolism and Southern-fried melodrama work is to balance its humorous and somber elements. Director Elina de Santos treats the turgid relic like the juicy potboiler that it is, offering enough of the trademark Williams lyricism to satisfy the master’s fans, while putting the real emphasis on old-fashioned theatrics and testosterone-charged passion. The two lead players imbue the material with the larger-than-life brio it requires. Marilyn Fox’s fiery shopkeeper, Lady Torrance, is the most deliciously earthy portrayal of an Italian by a non-Italian since Meryl Streep in “The Bridges of Madison County.” Fox’s pitch-perfect performance eloquently captures Lady’s spunky, lustful nature and deep desire for spiritual salvation. She’s wonderfully matched with Greg Vignolle as the sultry, guitar-toting drifter Val Xavier, whose appearance on the scene sets in motion a series of cataclysmic events seemingly ordained by the gods, per the script’s allusions to Greek mythology. Vignolle pulls off the miraculous feat of sustaining a grandiose, compelling presence, while providing enough down-to-earth human traits to earn our compassion as Val follows his destiny to Olympus-ordained doom. Supporting performances are likewise beautifully fleshed out, particularly Brad Greenquist’s chilling performance as Lady’s dying husband, Jabe, Alley Mills’ recklessly deranged waif, Carol, and Diane Hurley as a control-freak caretaker. The gossipy biddies who flit in and out of Lady’s mercantile store suggest a flock of chattering hens. This is an archaic example of Williams’ idiosyncratic stylization, interpreted here with fidelity to the script, but nonetheless having a dated quality. The design elements are top-notch, adding to the richly depicted Southern-gothic milieu. The Pacific Resident Theatre smartly melds classic theatre with absorbing guilty-pleasure entertainment in a production notable for its pure, unadulterated fun.

0 comments on “REVIEW OF ORPHEUS DESCENDING BY Les Spindle for Frontiers Magazine

Leave Comment