ECCENTRICITIES and random notes on Tennessee Williams

EccentricitiesofaNightingale10_JohannaAustinI enjoyed IRC’s  crisp and affecting production of THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE, which has been reviewed on Phindie. I have brief, assorted thoughts to share on the subject. Like how this play’s mix of classic Tennessee Williams ingredients includes troublesome mothers, a less than eager gentleman caller, and most importantly, a poor thing. Eccentricities’ Alma Winemiller echoes other nervous and fragile women: Laura Wingfield and Blanche Dubois, also Hannah Jelkes (Night of the Iguana), Catharine (Suddenly Last Summer), and Marguerite (Camino Real).  

Alma Winemiller (Tina Brock was born for this role) is a bit different. Along with her charming awkwardness she is loud—and nervous and fragile. The whole cast for IRC’s production is particularly well chosen.

It’s interesting that Tennessee Williams believed he had a heart condition, although he did not have one. He must have allayed his worries by bestowing his fears on his creations— characters who either have, imagine, or claim to have heart problems. Alma is numbered among these, along with Candy, the drag queen in AndTell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens, Kilroy in Camino Real, the Reverend in You Touched Me!, Sebastian (only according to his mother) in Suddenly Last Summer, in addition to other characters in his prose stories.

Incidentally, young Tom Williams hung out with my boyfriend’s father’s family in St. Louis. He was good friends with my boyfriend’s aunt. Later he named characters in several plays after her. One Thanksgiving when he was staying with the family, the house was full, and at night there were not enough beds to go around. The young people had to double up. Tennessee Williams slept with my boyfriend’s father. I love saying that at a party. Of course, it wasn’t like that.

(The ticket to IRC’s Eccentricities includes access to The Bethany Mission Gallery, which is not open to the public. I can’t stress enough what a rare chance this is to wander around Victor Keen’s private collection of unusual pictures and paintings (Outsider Art), vintage radios and toasters, toys, and other curious stuff that’s truly something to see. It doubles the pleasure of your theater ticket.)

 

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About the author

Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.