Two_Char_1

The Two-Character Play (Out Cry)

by Tennessee Williams

The Bluver Theatre at The Drake
September 7 - 25, 2022
Directed by Tina Brock and John Zak
Two Character Play 2022 Graphic
John Zak
Felice
Tina Brock
Clare

Costume Design

Millie Hiibel

Lighting Design

Shannon Zura

Set Design

Dirk Durossette

Sound Design

Christopher Mark Colucci

Reality and fantasy are interwoven with terrifying power as two actors on tour―brother and sister―find themselves deserted by the trope in a decrepit “state theatre in an unknown state.”

 

Faced (perhaps) by an audience expecting a performance, they enact “The Two-Character Play”―an illusions within an illusion, and “out cry” from isolation, panic and fear.

 

In the course of its evolution, several earlier versions of The Two-Character Play have been produced. The first, in 1967 in London and Chicago; the next, staged in 1973 in New York under the title Out Cry, was published by New Directions in 1973. The third version, produced in New York in 1975, was again titled The Two-Character Play, and is the one Tennessee Williams wished to include in New Directions’ The Theatre of Tennessee Williams series.

 

“I think it is my most beautiful play since Streetcar,” Tennessee Williams said, “and I’ve never stopped working on it….It is a cri de coeur, but then all creative work, all life, in a sense is a cri de coeur.”

 

“…a rarely-seen fever dream…an eternal folie à deux…they don’t just strike sparks.
They’re a raging conflagration that keeps changing form and direction.
Low on plot and high on poetry, it presents the painful spectacle of a talented, desperate mind chasing itself in circles.”
–Ben Brantley, The New York Times

 

“A doctor once told me that we were the bravest people he knew. I said “Why, that’s absurd, my brother and I are terrified of our shadows.” And he said, “Yes, I know, and that’s why I admire your courage so much…”” –Clare, from The Two-Character Play

 

BUY TICKETS

Please Note: There will be no performance on Sunday, September 18th.

 

The IRC is a 501C3 non-profit organization, and a member of The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and a participant in the Barrymore Awards, a program of Theatre Philadelphia. The IRC’s 2022 season is made possible, in part, by generous support from Wyncote Foundation; The Philadelphia Cultural Fund; The Bayard Walker, Jr. Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation; The Charlotte Cushman Foundation; The Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, administered regionally by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; and The Virginia Brown Martin Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, following a recommendation by Gene F. Dilks.

 

A Director's Notes

 

THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY AND MATISSE

BY DAVID KAPLAN

In the winter of 2012, a few months before Tennessee Williams’ The Two-Character Play  began a run in Manhattan, there was a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art about Matisse becoming Matisse.  Forty-nine paintings were shown for purposes of comparison. With Tennessee Williams and his repurposing of realism in mind, I stopped to stare at a pair of paintings. On the canvas I suppose was painted first, Matisse depicted the corner of a room with a view—of Nice I think. There’s curved iron grille work below a window, two goldfish hang in a glass bucket, a leggy houseplant curves up out of a little terracotta pot, there’s a plain table, a pillowed couch, an empty bowl, all of these painted as if in the diffused blue of twilight, arranged as conventionally as they would be in a photograph.

The other painting of the pair contains the same things arranged in a different composition: the iron curves float in the air behind and below the fish, which still hang in the glass bucket. The plant droops from behind the bucket. We don’t see the little terracotta pot, an orange on the table replaces it, rhyming the color of the fish. The couch and the pillows are flattened to colored trapezoids as are the walls and the floor. There is no view, there is no room.

We’re looking at a point of view.

And that’s how Matisse became Matisse, by mastering the elements of realistic composition and then recombining them into something essential, thereby creating a painting that was frankly a painting—and its subject matter is as much painting as it is any nice or Nice view.

Tennessee Williams is doing the same with The Two-Character Play: the conspiratorial relationship of brother and sister he’d written about in The Glass Menagerie—and lived all his life—is reconfigured past realism or reality to become a play about a play.

Why? Because, three decades after Glass Menagerie opened in Chicago, Tennessee Williams had thirty more years to think about his subject matter, and he knew more, and he felt more—and differently —about his subject matter. Her name, Rose, crops up in nearly every Williams’ play like the Ninas in a Hirschfeld, but in this play once only, when the playwright-brother tells his sister:

“I know what to do.”

And she replies:

“Oh, do you? What is it? To sit there staring all day at a threadbare rose in a carpet until it withers?”

Three decades after The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway, the playwright had time enough to reflect upon his ability to turn memories into stage business: enjoying international fame, making a good living by entertaining strangers with the intimacies of his family, while Rose was lobotomized and kept apart from the world in a series of institutions. In The Two-Character Play a brother has written a play for himself and his sister to perform, and the playwright’s sister has feelings about being cast in her brother’s play, which she’s been touring around the world for, well, probably as long as The Glass Menagerie has been tinkling away on stages throughout the world.

The same elements that construct the illusion of the Menagerie living-room recombine in The Two-Character Play’s stagy setting: the soap bubble of happy memories, self-crippling shyness, the braggadocio of a born story-teller, Southern gentility facing the shame of owing money at the Jewish Deli—Garfinkel’s in Menagerie, Grossman’s in Two-Character.

The Two-Character Play is a play about the making and makers of artifice, fueled by the same realities that fuel the Glass Menagerie: the realities of pride and regret, love and disappointment, and—as in all of Williams’ plays—the reality that words can be incantations of light against the dark.

By removing the responsibility of creating a stage illusion from his words, in The Two-Character Play Williams frees his play from portraiture and plotline as decisively as Matisse pulls our eyes out of the corner of a room to look instead at the center of an essence. In The Two-Character Play we look and listen to the essence of Williams’ writing, as the playwright-brother says to his sister while the stage lights dim:

“If we can imagine summer, we can imagine more light.”
Which brings the sister to a question:

“If we're lost in the play?”

In some editions of the text her words end with period, so it’s not a question but the sister’s statement. In all editions there’s the same response.

“Yes, completely lost in The Two-Character Play.”

 (In 2011, the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival presented The Two-Character Play directed by Gene David Kirk with the London production's stars, Catherine Cusack and Paul McEwan.)

 

Tenn Years: Tennessee Williams on Stage, essays by David Kaplan
Hansen Publishing Group, 2015

 

Interior With Goldfish

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954)
Interior with Goldfish, 1914
Oil on canvas; 57 7/8 x 38 3/16 in. (147 x 97 cm)
Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, Bequest of Baronne Eva Gourgaud, 1965
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Goldfish And Palette

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954)
Goldfish and Palette, 1914
Oil on canvas; 57 3/4 x 44 1/4 in. (146.5 x 112.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift and bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn and Samuel A. Marx, 1964
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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2022 AUGUST 18-28 ● The Rose Tattoo in St, Louis
2022 SEPT 23-25 ● The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival
More information @ davidkaplandirector.com