The recipient of a critical cold shoulder on its 1967 debut, this late experimental effort from Tennessee Williams contains some surprisingly effective moments, even as it displays startling lapses in dramatic judgment. Williams’s basic move, to adopt the stark meta-theatrical moves of Beckett and Pinter, isn’t as much of a stretch as it seems—Williams’ heavily symbolist style was always at a further remove from traditional realism than could be easily appreciated at mid-century. But that’s just what makes the more self-conscious adoption of an “experimental” viewpoint redundant for Williams, especially when he insists on maintaining to the point of self-parody his lush, overripe language. Redundancy rears its head again when we realize that the brother and sister acting team staging the play within the play turn out to be essentially the same characters as the ones they’re playing. But EL2 makes a solid case that “The Two-Character Play,” for all its ungainliness, can exert a hypnotic fascination. Beautifully designed within the cavernous main Viaduct stage, Ellie Heyman’s production elicits skillful and potent performances from Tere Parkes and Jason Fleitz; the rawness of their emotion rips through Williams’s layers of artifice to reveal the vulnerable and voracious flesh underneath. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.