×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Vieux Carre

The Wooster Group is less than scintillating in applying its patented blend of found-object rubbish and video art to Tennessee Williams' "Vieux Carre."

With:
With: Ari Fliakos, Daniel Jackson, Daniel Pettrow, Kaneza Schaal, Andrew Schneider, Scott Shepherd, Kate Valk.

The Wooster Group, in the wake of stimulating previous visits to the downtown Redcat space, is less than scintillating in applying its patented blend of found-object rubbish and video art to Tennessee Williams’ “Vieux Carre.” A memory-based sequel of sorts to “The Glass Menagerie,” the 1978 text isn’t nearly as interesting, but deserves better than this overintellectualized, underpercolated deconstruction marshaled by Group leader Elizabeth LeCompte.

For all intents and purposes, 722 Toulouse St., French Quarter, New Orleans was first stop on life’s weary Camino Real for both author and alter ego Tom Wingfield, as he slammed out of his mother and sister’s lives to explore his late-arriving artistic and sexual awareness.

Here, merely dubbed “the Writer” (Ari Fliakos), he occupies sweaty nights on an attic cot, feverishly scribbling observations of a scraggly passing parade or, as actor Charles Butterworth once said of Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life,” the boarding house’s “habitues and sons-of-habitues.”

In Wooster style the character’s output is typed — or rather, hamfisted — on a computer keyboard. But he can hardly have much to write about, since Fliakos mostly lounges disconnectedly across a filthy black platform, looking as if he’s wondering where he put his keys. (It can’t be in his pants pocket, because he’s restricted to a black leather jockstrap much of the time.)

The year 2010 has already brought to L.A. one Williams stand-in, writing the play in full view. But whereas Tom in Gordon Edelstein’s stunning Taper “Glass Menagerie” was emotionally invested in the events he both lived and scribed, this guy is in a dreamy absinthe haze, a cut-rate Baudelaire spouting inchoate imagery amped up by the microphone attached to his jock. Bits of text are hazily projected against the rear wall, though inconsistently and sometimes rapid-fire, suggesting the production can’t really be bothered with anything the man has to say.

On the other hand, what exactly is there for him to observe? Familiar but tenderly conceived Williams types — an elderly gay street artist; an Eastern sophisticate and her rough-trade lover; a notorious landlady — are here reduced to crude caricatures. The usually nuanced Kate Valk, doubling as both madam and not-so-sweet young thing, makes each a shrieking harpy lacking variety or sympathy.

Scott Shepherd, so trenchant as Hamlet for the same company in 2008, is asked to wave around a bloody hankie as the consumptive old man and undulate as the stud; he convinces in neither louche incarnation.

Sneaking in video images from the old Warhol Factory, LeCompte in “Vieux Carre” isn’t bringing out subtext but hammering home that which is already, obviously there. Thus, both the coughing old man and the preening stud sport a rubber twig ‘n’ berries out their pants. Can’t tell at a distance whether Shepherd changes into a different dildo for each character, but we get it: They’re sex-mad. We get it: the young Williams saw sexual opportunity everywhere.

The company goes to great lengths to dress and undress in full view, moving platforms a few feet left or right or sliding in screens without making any material changes to the stage space. Yet the ultimate payoff is inadequate to all the effort.

The young Williams’ early life amidst squalor inspired the grace and human understanding of later masterpieces. We get that, but it’s a thin theme on which to peg almost two hours of strained imagery and aural assault.

Popular on Variety

Vieux Carre

Redcat, Los Angeles; 220 seats; $55 top

Production: A CalArts presentation of the Wooster Group production of a play in one act by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte.

Creative: Lighting, Jennifer Tipton; sound, Matt Schloss, Omar Zubair; video, Andrew Schneider; tech director and additional video, Aron Deyo; stage manager, Teresa Hartmann. Opened, reviewed Dec. 1, 2010. Runs through Dec. 12. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

Cast: With: Ari Fliakos, Daniel Jackson, Daniel Pettrow, Kaneza Schaal, Andrew Schneider, Scott Shepherd, Kate Valk.

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content