Her name is Lady, and when the rural townsfolk of the play speak to her by name, it’s as patronizing as patronizing gets. Hey Lady. What’s your problem, Lady? Who do you think you are, Lady? Lady, didn’t you know? We see right through you, Lady. Written, revised and rewritten again more than a decade after his success with “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Tennessee Williams’ rarely produced “Orpheus Descending” might be the playwright’s most unnerving work, currently in a splendidly seamy production at American Theater Company. Married to an older man with a mean streak and a decaying body, Lady’s life is drudgery. All that changes when an enigmatic charmer walks through the door, clutching a guitar under one arm. He is danger personified, and Lady is on to him quick: “Everything you do is suggestive,” she tells him, and she’s right. They trade pheromones and heavy suggestive glances that are as palpable as hot breath on a cold night. And then it all goes very, very wrong. Director Damon Kiely has cast the show exceptionally well; Carmen Roman’s Lady—long and lean, with big feet in sensible shoes—is at once prim, earthy and rabidly emotional. She has good reason to be; Lady caught a raw deal early on, and this is her one chance to extricate herself from the past. Steve Key, as the enticing stranger (called, appropriately enough, Valentino), is an actor who somehow figured out how to just stand there and radiate sex. It’s a powerful combination, these two, with their sensual, push-pull dynamic that lingers in the mind long after you’ve left the theater. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.