Palm Beach Dramaworks Debuts ‘Fantastic’ Production of Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Night of the Iguana’
By Nicholas Palmieri
Palm Beach Dramaworks makes good on its promise to provide “theatre to think about” with the opening production of its 17th season, “The Night of the Iguana” by Tennessee Williams.
The play follows emotionally troubled ex-minister T. Lawrence Shannon (Tim Altmeyer) as he arrives at a lodge in Mexico run by an old friend, Maxine Faulk (Kim Cozort Kay), seeking a respite from the life he’s found himself reluctantly living. The play features topics that audiences will expect from Williams, including psychological turmoil, repressed vs open sexuality, and the nature of human connections. However, this play has a significantly more bittersweet ending than his other well-known works, which is a nice change of pace for those familiar with Williams’ typical bitter endings.
Altmeyer embodies Shannon’s inner conflict well. His Southern accent sounds just sloppy enough to add characterization, and his movements were similarly sloppy in a way that believably enhanced the portrayal of his declining mental state.
In a wonderful stroke of directing by Director William Hayes, every character except Shannon has a palpable level of comfort about themselves, separating Shannon to highlight his struggles. Kay’s Maxine appears completely “in her element,” constantly managing areas of the set and displaying an overall comfort and command over the area. Hannah (Katie Cunningham), while not “in her element,” still maintains a confidence and sureness of self through her vocal clarity and reserved motions. Minor characters who appear frazzled from their situations, like Miss Fellowes (Irene Adjan), also display steady personas, in sharp contrast to the also frazzled but psychologically unraveling Shannon.
Even extremely minor characters rise above their small roles to become vital elements towards making Shannon appear out-of-place with the world and with himself. Of particular note here are the two Mexican boys, who mostly lie around the set, and the German family, who energetically marches around, behind, and beyond the stage at odd moments. It’s difficult not to feel the contrast when the shirtless, sexually free Mexican boys lounge on the sides of the set while in the center of the stage, Shannon squirms in a hammock in his all-white suit.
Each of the technical details were nuanced as well. The set, representing a coastal Mexican hotel, successfully envelops the audience in the world of the play. I kept finding myself noticing new set details as characters moved around: small painted cracks in the stone, foliage creeping up from below the stairs, gaps in the overhang. The sound was used only when needed to keep the atmosphere, without any odd moments. I particularly enjoyed the subtle lighting changes, from the
bright, sunny whites in the opening afternoon scene, moving through various levels of pinks and yellows during the sunset scene, all leading to the cool blues of night. All three of these technical elements – set, lighting, and sound – came together wonderfully during the thunderstorm scene at the end of Act One, which deserves to be felt in-person.
If you have any interest in Williams’ plays or wish to ruminate on the nature of human connections, you should experience Palm Beach Dramaworks’ intricate production here.
“The Night of the Iguana” runs through November 14. Tickets are $66 and can be purchased via phone at (561) 514-4042 or online at palmbeachdramaworks.org.