Sweet Bird of Youth (starring Kim Cattrall!)

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Surprise! On a whim, I decided to book this show, and boy am I glad I did! This show is what theatre is supposed to be: dramatic, but not too dramatic, silly, but done in a classic style, and great attention to detail. Yep, “Sweet Bird of Youth” was a real treat. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the title, “Sweet Bird” was written by Tennessee Williams (who also wrote Streetcar named Desire, which every kid who ever went to High School should have read) and is about an “over-the-hill” Hollywood star (played by Kim Cattrall) who runs away from the “disastrous” premiere of what is supposed to be her comeback film, straight into the arms of vodka, and a southern wannabe actor/gigolo Chance Wayne. Although Cattrall obviously gets recognition because she is in fact a Hollywood star, Wayne’s character is the focus of the play.

Poor Chance Wayne is a struggling actor who only seeks fortune so he can win the hand in marriage of his childhood love, “Heavenly” (yes, that’s really her name. I know…) by proving to her father that he can provide for her. However, the play has a dark undertone to it (naturally, we are talking about Tennessee Williams). Chance has visited his hometown, St. Cloud, a couple times throughout his time being a city gigolo, and the last time he visited, he unknowingly gave Heavenly a “disease” that has led to dire consequences (I won’t spoil all of it) and ultimately a LOT of bad blood between Heavenly’s family and Chance. The story is VERY good and I think it translated onto the stage beautifully.

Kim Catrall was very interesting to watch. She definitely had fun being a washed up movie star, playing an “over the top” character (super dramatic). She also had this weird deep voice that she used which made her seem a lot older than the 50-something she was supposed to be. I asked my neighbors sitting next to me during intermission what they thought of her and they agreed that she seemed to be playing the role a lot older than we were expecting. Of course she could also have seemed older in contrast to the youthful exuberance of Chance Wayne, who had a very high pitched (not weirdly so, but nevertheless high-ish) voice that made him seem younger than his pronounced 29 years of age. Catrall also had a horrible red wig on (probably also to make her look older, but it made her look like a granny with a dye-job to me) which, oddly enough, was not on any of the posters for the show (where she is seen with curly blonde hair). Interesting… But I digress.

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The set was worrisome to me at first, but ended up being somewhat ingenious. There was a huge room in the middle of the stage, that was, for most of the scenes, blocked off with pillars (think “Gone With the Wind” style architecture) and drapes that suggested Old South finery. In the first half of the play, the characters used the space around the room, and used the pillars and drapes as if they were looking out the window of a hotel room. But in the second half of the show was where it got interesting. The drapes opened up to reveal a room and the entire stage looked like the set up of a country club, with an outdoor patio and bar. So cool. My explanation doesn’t really do it justice, so you should probably just go see it.

Also, the detail with everything was very well done. Sets were moved by people in maids and butlers costumes, so that it looked like the moving of sets was almost part of the maids and butlers duties at the plantation/hotel. Also, there is a scene where a political rally is taking place that sticks out particularly in my mind. It is a very serious rally to do with racial violence in the south, and the speaker is speaking out supporting the segregation and maltreatment of black people. This rally is technically off-stage, but there were old-fashioned black and white televisions on-stage that “showed” the rally, and the eerie outdoor lighting on stage and great blocking of the white people on stage vs. the black people on stage, made the whole scene very ominous and frightening. I loved it. There is also a fight scene at the end where a protester goes from on-stage, to off-stage (to the audience he is walking into the room where the rally is taking place) and then is thrown out of the rally, back on stage and a nicely choreographed fight scene ensues.

All in all, I was thoroughly intrigued for the entirety of the show. It was visually beautiful and the cast was very talented. The eerie effect almost reminded me of seeing “The Woman in Black” on stage, but was definitely more subtle. Highly recommend seeing and/or reading this play. In this case, spontaneity definitely paid off for me.

See ya tomorrow readers!

~A

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