By David Walters
These four one-acts and the title gave me some insight into something I previously hadn’t considered (not being a Williams scholar, just a fan). In every one of his plays, that I know of, the theme is self-delusion in one form or another. These four one-acts don’t usually see the light of day. Tennessee wrote over 70 of them and I bet you haven’t heard of any of them, or only a handful at most.
The Case of the Crushed Petunias (1941)
Miss Dorothy Simple of Primeandproper, MA (in case you had any questions about where you are and who you’re dealing with), discovers her border of petunias has been crushed underfoot. The magical mystical perpetrator arrives at her shop (Simple Notions) to confess that he trod them down as they were borders to her soul and goes on to expose Miss Simple to the idea that she is missing out on a real life that is just waiting for her outside the door.
The Lady of Larkspur Lotion (1946) (Larkspur was a medicine used for killing head lice and mites and was poisonous if taken internally)
In a wretchedly furnished room in the Quarter, in New Orleans, overrun by cockroaches, a tenant who can no longer pay her rent (and believes she owns a Brazilian rubber plantation), is confronted by the landlady and asked to leave. Another tenant hearing the argument through the thin walls, a writer with illusions of grandeur, interrupts the bitter exchange and fights for the right of illusion to exist in the world.
Mooney’s Kid Don’t Cry (1936)
Star-gazer Mooney, who was once a lumberjack in the north woods of Canada, now lives in an industrial American town, in a small worn-out room with his wife and newborn son, and works in the mill. He feels trapped with the walls closing in and wants more for himself, for his life. That may mean taking his axe and walking out the door just like his father did.
Hello, From Bertha (1946)
Bertha is an aged prostitute at death’s door. As she lay dying, she slips into imaginations of past Johns and the could-have-been of life.
Taken as a whole, in these one-acts, it is possible to see the beginnings of future characters in other, more famous, Tennessee Williams’ plays. Much like sketches that a painter makes prior to creating a full-on masterpiece. Studies on themes to be incorporated into future works.
I talked above about the material as you may be interested in it and what Tennessee Williams’s output was during his life before he requested to be buried at sea next to Hart Crane.
But what I can’t do is (and I hate to do this because I love the theatre and everything involved with making it happen) talk up the production because it was not on par with the material (and I believe there’s a reason we don’t often see these one-acts). I don’t know what problems they had prior to opening night, but there were many of them still present in the directing, the acting, the lighting, and the set that were not able to come together. Guys in the booth, please keep it down, because the audience can hear you talking (and this was the least of this show’s problems).
Merciful Delusions Productions, LLC presents 4-one act plays by Tennessee Williams: Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry, The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, The Case of the Crushed Petunias, and Hello, From Bertha, directed by Lorraine Serabian.
The cast includes Elizabeth Bove, JR Carter, Elena Clark, Letty Ferrer, Josh Freed, Marie-Claire Giraud, Nicole Gut, Steven J. Harris, Janelle (Jyan) Jung, Natalie Neckyfarow, Michelle Oppedisano, Aurora Quintard, Martin Riofrio, & Joey Welsh.
Buy Tickets for “Merciful Delusions” running November 2-12 at Theatre Row: HERE
As always, this is just one man’s opinion in a world filled with them.