Ever had that feeling that you’re in a play? And you’re not sure what you’re supposed to say or what’s going to happen next? But either way, whether you do something or not, events and circumstances are bulldozing you along, against your will, to an unknown destination… if there is one…? That was my experience of upon my most recent visit to Pasadena’s Theatre @ Boston Court’s. In collaboration with Cal Arts, Boston Court presents Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real.
As Williams’ most disjointed work, where characters come and go and die and sing and wail and scavenge, Camino Real encompasses characters deeply entrenched in their truculent circumstances alongside characters that break the fourth wall, inviting the audience to both accompany and participate in their travails.
Kilroy ( Chris Chiquet [u/s]), is one character of the latter group, and as such, services as the default hero of our story. Kilroy’s wanderings have led him to a desert town populated by prostitutes, vagrants and gypsies. A once proud and celebrated prize fighter, Kilroy is soon robbed, beaten down and trapped in this strange town without means of escape. He becomes one of many souls trapped in this rundown town where currency is king.
He is trapped in terra incognito with other famously eccentric characters from literature and history. Casanova (Tim Cummings), while trying to maintain his dignity despite his dwindling financials and waning social status, does his best to woe Marguerite (Marissa Chibas), the beautiful elusive lady that he feels matches him in status. She longs for escape while he simply longs for her. Lord Byron (Michael Aurelio) experiences a very public existential epiphany. Esmerelda (Kalean Ung) is a gypsy girl who ceremoniously regains her virginity once a month. Finally, standing on the highest scaffold is Gutman (Brian Tichnell), a sadistic “hotel manager” who seemingly presiding over this grim wonderland.
Camino Real is anything but a traditional play. By intermission, I finally gave up trying to connect the dots of the plot – a choice that should have been my initial approach to the piece. While there is definitely connective tissue within the text, you as an audience member will never know when Williams has shifted to a new puzzle or if he will ever return to the puzzle piece he began one or two or ten blocks ago. This production is simply to be experienced, leaving the audience to extrapolate from their own hearts and minds. Not having the answer or knowing the “why” works for this piece, without leaving the audience wanting. Well Done.
Director Jessica Kubzansky assembles an eclectic tribe of performers from Cal Arts School of Theatre and partners with the Theatre at Boston Court to concoct an entertaining, fantastical and darkly circus of Tennessee Williams' most surreal work. Both visually and stylistically, this production is quite engaging. Exactly what is so intriguing about it is difficult to articulate; yet this production’s “ je ne se quoi” quality is robustly omnipresent. Kubzansky’s interpretation of Williams’ work is strangely enthralling in its strangeness, piqued by a primal morbid fascination. Kudos to the entire cast for their complete commitment to some daring directional choices; as a company, they truly create the world that is simultaneously foreign and familiar. Again, Well Done.
To call the Cal Arts / Boston Court collaboration offbeat is a grand understatement. It’s quasi-experimental theatre that is quite accessible for most all audiences. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real is playing through March 13, 2011 at:
The Theater @ Boston Court
Boston Court Performing Arts Center
70 N. Mentor Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106
Photo Credit: Ed Krieger