Tennessee Williams wrote 29 one-act plays, a side of his dramatic output relatively unknown to the theatre-going public. It is greatly to the credit of Ned Vukovic, the Artistic Director of the Solar Stage, that he has begun programming these plays. Last season we had a double bill of This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain. This season we have "A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot". On the basis of these productions, we hope the Solar Stage will continue to give us more of these quirky, atmospheric plays of Williams.
The play proper, A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot (published in 1970), finds Williams in a rare, lighter mood and consists entirely of the conversation of two ageing Southern belles in a seedy bar during a convention of "The Sons of Mars" (whose fezzes immediately make one think of Shriners). Director Bernadette Jones has very cleverly expanded the play by actually introducing us right from the start to two of these "Sons of Mars," otherwise only referred to by the Southern belles. David Dunbar and A. Frank Ruffo are hilarious as the two drunken conventioneers, who attempt to keep their spirits high by singing a number of maudlin hits from the past.
This short scene immediately establishes
the faux festive atmosphere of the convention and the departure
of the two singing buddies makes way for the arrival of the ladies.
Stage veterans, Barbara Chilcott and Charmion King
are absolutely wonderful as the two ageing Southern belles who
make a habit of attending "Sons of Mars" conventions
in hopes of romantic adventure. Judy Peyton Ward's delightfully
overblown costumes perfectly reflect the characters' extravagance
and lack of taste. The dialogue of the two combining would-be
refined expression and decidedly unrefined subject matter makes
up the humour of the piece. Chilcott and King put this across
with so much zest and nuance one could easily listen to them for
far longer than the 30 minutes they are given. They are also expert
and suggesting a long-lasting friendship that still includes a
sizeable amount of antagonism.
The bizarre title of the play refers to the way Flora (Chilcott) had her fortune told, revealing to her that she would not be appreciated even by those closest to her. There is a sense of sadness and past tragedy underlying the humour of the play, but for once in Williams that is kept at bay and we are allowed to laugh rather than cringe at human pretensions.
If you have the noon hour free, give yourself a treat by seeing these two great Canadian actresses on stage. But be sure to reserve ahead; the performance I attended was very close to sold out.
A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot at the Solar Stage (Scotia Plaza) in Toronto Nov. 15-26 (Mon.-Fri. 12:12 pm).