Bedrooms, particularly hotel bedrooms, are a central focus of Tennessee Williams’s plays, as they were of his restless, perpetually transient life. From the seedy rooming house in Vieux Carre to the luxury hotel in Sweet Bird of Youth, a room with a bed (or couch) and a pair of non-permanent inhabitants is where the action takes place. One remembers Big Mama, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, pointing at the mattress as she declares, “When a marriage goes on the rocks, the rocks are there, right there.”
Even in Williams, few marriages would seem to hit the rocks as quickly as the coupling he depicted in the 1970 one-act Green Eyes, first published in 2008 and now getting its New York professional premiere in, appropriately, a hotel bedroom. Assembling in the lobby of the Hudson Hotel—yet one more of those repulsive, murkily lit, new establishments that suggest an opium den in an undersea documentary—the audience is led to a room that seats 14, with barely space left over for a stage manager, a briefly intruding room service waiter (Nore Davis), and the mismated Boy (Adam Couperthwaite) and Girl (Erin Markey) whose erotically charged sparring is the slight work’s sole subject.
She, a haughty-but-naughty sexual tease, is another of those overbred Southern gals in whom Williams invested so much of his literary personality, able to interrupt even the roughest physical tussle with her bridegroom to shout at the arriving waiter that her Continental breakfast damn well better include soft-boiled eggs. He, similarly, matches the standard-issue Williams brutal, self-serving, drunken stud, with a little combat trauma and a lot of jealousy tossed in for texture. The script drops hints of Vietnam, heavily underscored like everything else in Travis Chamberlain’s heavy-handed production, but the French Quarter setting and the honeymoon-on-impulse setup ring truer to World War II.
What’s at issue in Green Eyes is a third party—in the Girl’s estimation, a lover far superior in prowess to her husband—who may be a reality, a private daydream of hers, or a mutual fantasy cooked up to arouse them both. Whichever, it duly has its effect, though Chamberlain’s over-the-top approach leaves you wondering whether the result is mayhem or orgasm. The close quarters, and a prologue which is another misguided directorial invention, adds minor embarrassment instead of heightening a sense of intimacy. Couperthwaite and Markey, despite these obstacles, handle the situation with sweaty credibility.