Tennessee Williams’ Kingdom of Earth is currently performing at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. This a thought-provoking play that is rarely produced, directed here by Michael Arabian and starring Susan Priver, Brian Burke, and Daniel Felix de Weldon.
In Kingdom of Earth three marginalized people find themselves trapped in a Mississippi farmhouse just hours before a devastating flood is expected. Dying from tuberculosis and obsessed with memories of his late mother, Lot (played by Pasadena resident de Weldon) has returned home with his wife of 24 hours, a once-upon-a-time showgirl named Myrtle (played by Priver, a long-time teacher at Pasadena Yoga House). Lot’s return fuels a longstanding feud with his biracial half-brother Chicken (Burke) over the ownership of the family estate.
The play is about 90-minutes long, without intermissions, fairly faithful to William’s words although condensed. The Southern accents that the author gave to the characters are well done by the actors, and due to some nudity, sexuality, and language, this play is meant for a mature audience.
The actors’ delivery is good, de Weldon’s particularly enjoyable, yet just as important in this play is the outstanding work done by lighting designer Bill E. Kickbush, the terrific ambiance created by sound designer John Nobori, and the detailed work done by scenic designer John Iacovelli. Williams’ stage directions were very specific. “At rise of the curtain,” he wrote first of all, “the stage set, uninhabited, has the mood of a blues song whose subject is loneliness.” (Even his stage directions were gorgeous!) While this production takes many liberties with Williams’ stage directions, that first one is deliciously achieved by the designers, immersing the audience in a “blues song,” of sorts, the minute they are seated.
“In his work,” writes Arabian in his Director’s Note, Williams “explores gay, transgender identification and other themes that were ahead of their time and are still relevant today.” In fact, although the play is set in early 1960s at the Mississippi Delta, its themes feel like written for today. This is a beautiful play that will acquaint you with Williams’ work, or further enrich it, certainly worth a trip to the west side.
Kingdom of Earth will perform through August 14, 2016. Tickets are $30, with $15 rush tickets that sell one hour prior to curtain at the door, when available. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., in Los Angeles 90025. Visit OdysseyTheatre.com or call (310) 477-2055 for additional information.
Photo: Brian Burke, Susan Priver, Daniel Felix de Weldon / by Michael Lamont
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