I saw a Wednesday matinee of this 1959 by Tennessee Williams.
The story follows Chance Wayne, a struggling actor who returns to his hometown of St Cloud accompanied by washed-up, ex-Hollywood star Alexandra Del Lago. Chance is on a mission to win back his childhood sweetheart Heavenly Finley, while Alexandra is on the run from what seems to be another failed film.
The cast make the best of their unlikable characters. Seth Numrich is convincing as the sweet-talking, arrogant man we see in Act I and gives a stand-out performance as a Chance who has descended into a drunken mess in Act II.
Kim Cattrall is good too, conveying a woman tortured by her loss of youth, beauty and success very impressively. She delivers her comic lines well (though the play is fairly light on the laughs) such as when she wakes up in a hotel room next to Chance and after inspecting him, declares, ” I may have done a lot better, but God knows I”ve done worse”. The character of Alexandra is an demanding monster and Cattrall embraces this aspect of her personality so enthusiastically that at times it was completely exhausting to watch. I don”t know how Cattrall gives such a physically huge performance 8 times a week.
The supporting cast were largely overshadowed by the two leads, although I really enjoyed Lucy Robinson”s performance as Boss Finley”s mistress, Miss Lucy. The production is invigorated and at times held together by Dan Jones” sound and Bruno Poet”s lighting. One scene in particular involves a huge thunderstorm which brings tension to a scene which might have otherwise lacked it.
Personally, I thought the issue of racism could have been better explored. Throughout the play, the socio-political backdrop of the Deep South in the 1950″s came across as slightly irrelevant in comparison to the turmoil of the two main characters.
Overall, I thought Marianne Elliott”s production was well performed, but that this didn”t make up for the weakness of the play itself.
Sweet Bird of Youth is on until 31 Aug 2013.