Upon arrival at A Noise Within”™s theatre in Glendale, one is greeted by the whimsical tinkerings of madman wizard (and set designer) Joel David”™s twisted playground. His set design offers a remarkable insight, not only into the unfolding skeleton of the play but also the twisted canals of the character”™s minds, darkened by time and ill impressions and weighted by insanity and disillusion.Â The screened window box with exquisite lighting (by Jim Taylor) offers a peep show, perhaps referring to vaudevillian times, penny arcades and the cheap and easy thrills they offered, and allowing us to peer in on what society has deemed to be “˜the crazies”™.
Review by Lucy Griffin
At the beginning, the screen reveals the shadow of a bird-like woman singing and later shows a mother, Mrs. Winemiller (Jill Hill) pushed to insanity by her inevitable genetic progression but also by the oppressive ministerial moldings of her husband (Mitchell Edmonds).
Alma Winemiller (Deborah Puette) is suffering from unrequited love and yearns for a bohemian lifestyle, but she seems doomed to inherit insanity. Also the man she longs for, John Buchanan (Jason Dechert), is an insufferable momma”™s boy.Â Â Puette starts off with a frantic energy that quickly evolves into a beautiful and vulnerable performance. The frenetic start is justified by the complexities of a woman who is in love with the sort of man who could never love her back. She must learn the hard way (as most Tennessee William”™s plays go) of the limitations offered by a societal decision to discard the strange and make curses of blessings.
Playing the man of her fancy, dashing Dechert is delightfully misleading and manipulative as Buchanan.Â One moment he”™s seemingly an understanding man who might accept and even love the gilded bird, the next he”™s hanging from his mother”™s elbow as some sad school boy closeted by his desire to never leave his mother”™s side or even speak up to the evil Mrs. Buchanan (wonderfully played by Christopher Callen, in a lioness-like performance).
A truly great moment is in the first act when Hill as Mrs. Winemiller delivers a prophet-like speech, with its hidden truths disguised as maniacal musings, a behavior later echoed in the 2nd act by her daughter when professing her love and in a state of anxiety, almost forcing us to realize the ill-fated future of this mother”™s daughter.
Tennessee Williams”™ play is heavy with metaphor and this production is skillfully directed by DamÃ¡so Rodriguez.Â The ensemble offers humor in an otherwise dark play, especially David LM McIntyre and Jacque Lynn Colton.Â Eccentricities is a strong show from both cast and crew with beautiful costume design by Leah Piehl, whose attention to detail added layers to each character.
While there were some slow moments and a need to settle into the run (opening night always reveals obvious kinks) The Eccentricities of A Nightingale is a well oiled machine in a “˜MusÃ©e MÃ©canique”™ of its own.Â I felt the terrible weight of this character, fated for some “˜lunatic”™s”™ confined demise in an almost chosen solitary destiny.Â Alma’s determined lunacy never masks her core”™s desire (probably such as Williams”™) – the simple desire we all share in the human condition, which is to love and be loved in return.
The Eccentricities of a Nightingale
234 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204
Playing on the following dates:
Sunday, March 20, 2pm
Saturday, April 16, 8pm
Sunday, April 17, 2pm
Wednesday, April 20, 8 pm
Thursday, April 21, 8 pm
Friday, April 22, 8 pm
Saturday, May 7, 2 pm
Saturday, May 7, 8 pm
Sunday, May 8, 2 pm
Sunday, May 22, 2 pm
Sunday, May 22, 7 pm
Thursday, May 26, 8 pm
Friday, May 27, 8 pm
Saturday, May 28, 8 pm
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, with intermission
$46.00 Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees
$42.00 Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings, Saturday matinees
Group and school rates available
818-240-0910 x 1
A Noise Within”™s mission is to produce the great works of world drama in rotating repertory with a company of professional, classically-trained actors and to educate the public through outreach and conservatory training programs that foster an understanding and appreciation of history’s greatest plays and playwrights.
Photo Credit for All Images: Craig Schwartz