Out Cry, Tennessee William’s Failed Comeback


Out Cry, a/k/a The Two-Character Play, is Tennessee Williams’s 1973 Broadway swan song, the failed comeback after the successful crack-up. He has called it his most personal play, but “personal” can imply a high level of discomfort.

An attempt to join Williams’s hipper contemporaries—Albee, Ionesco—the self-referential story concerns a brother and sister, Clare and Felice, she a worn-out actress, he an unstable actor/playwright. These regional-theater hacks arrive in a nameless town to perform part of their repertory. However, the rest of the company has fled, calling them “insane”—and so has the audience. They perform anyway, an overheated drama by Felice about a brother and sister unable to leave the house where their parents murdered each other.

Out Cry has the disquieting atmosphere of a great artist imprisoned with an invalid muse, publicly mutilating himself. That’s actually the good news. NAATCO’s re-animation of this haunting coda evokes the proper tawdriness, especially Czerton Lim’s cluttered set, but the play needs virtuoso actors to feign mediocrity. Mia Katigbak comes close; Eduardo Machado doesn’t feign. But even performed well, Williams’s syrupy poetics might not transcend the play’s postmodern ambitions, nor would the end result seem like more than the creepy epitaph of a brilliant career.

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