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Theatre Review (LA): Camino Real by Tennessee Williams at The Theatre @ Boston Court

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Tennessee Williams wrote Camino Real in 1953. When it opened on Broadway it was not well received (only 60 performances). Its reputation has improved over time and Clive Barnes of the New York Times declared it Williams’ best play. But initially no one knew what to make of this expressionistic work, even the director Elia Kazan, who later admitted that he had misinterpreted it by “infusing it with excessive naturalism.”

Tennessee Williams was born in February of 1911. This year would have marked his 100th birthday. All over America there are revivals of his plays, and director Jessica Zubzansky wanted to try her hand at this controversial and often misunderstood work. A graduate of Calarts School of Theatre, she wanted to collaborate with the current crop of young actors from the school together with the resources and some of the actors from The Theatre @ Boston Court where she is one of the co-Artistic Directors.

The play gets its name from its setting, a dead-end town in a Spanish-speaking village surrounded by desert with only sporadic transportation to the outside world. The village also seems to be the clearinghouse for lots of famous and infamous characters: Casanova (Tim Cummings), Camille (Marissa Chibus), Lord Byron (Michael Aurelio), who is the only character to escape through a back door, Don Quixote (Lenny Van Dohlen), Esmeralda (Kalean Ung), and Kilroy (Chris Chiquet at this performance). The play is Don Quixote’s dream and like a dream is full of images and lacks a logical basis.

Kilroy, the narrator of the piece, eventually transforms into a clown and later into Quixote’s new sidekick. Quixote also escapes through the back door; he is a dreamer who goes on, despite the odds, to once again face the world. Kilroy seems to need a dreamer. The story, like most of Williams’, is really autobiographical and betrays the writer’s deep feeling of love and the impossibility of traditional romance, his fear of death, and even more important, his fear of becoming irrelevant.

The production itself is well executed by Ms. Zubzansky who manages to integrate the wandering narrative and the mix of professional and emerging actors into a deeply moving show. I enjoyed Chris Chiquet as Kilroy and felt he acquitted himself well. Although I enjoyed Ms. Chibas and Mr. Cummings, they lack a chemistry that would have made their scenes more gripping. Kilroy’s scene with Esmeralda, after she had regained her virginity (a daily occurrence), is quite poignant. Playgoers who look for a throrough narrative might be disappointed, but if you sit back and let Williams’ words wash over you, you may find that this is one of his best and most revealing plays. Camino Rea l plays until March 13 at The Theatre @ Boston Court.

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