Play: The Night of the Iguana

Group: Muddy Waters Theatre

Venue: Gaslight Theater, 356 North Boyle

Dates: May 23,24,25

Tickets: $15 and $20; contact 314-534-1111 or 314-540-7831

Story: A sleepy resort on the Pacific coast of Mexico is the setting as bus tour guide Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon leads a group of ladies from Baptist Women’s College on a 1940 sojourn into the sweltering Mexican climate. He brings them to a quiet little inn run by his recently widowed old friend Maxine, who lives there with a pair of local cabana boys. Also visiting are some German tourists, high on the early victories of the Nazi regime, and a New England artist who travels the world with her 97-year-old poet grandfather. Shannon, who has been defrocked for “heresy and fornication,” finds himself embroiled in controversy once again when he seduces an under-age girl on the caravan, while also befriending the spinsterish artist and renewing his acquaintance with Maxine.

Highlights: This 1961 effort by Tennessee Williams concludes Muddy Waters’ season of productions of works by the great American master, and it’s a highly satisfying send-off. Director Jerry McAdams has put together a winning cast that delves efficiently into the beauty of Williams’ writing and the complexity of his characters. Scenic designer Sean Savoie utilizes every square inch of the compact Gaslight Theater stage to effectively represent the simple protection of Madge’s modest retreat against the oppressive climate, complemented by the moody lighting of Will Calvert that accentuates the living quarters from the main area, while Lisa Beke’s costumes suitably reflect the times and mores of the various inhabitants.

Joshua Thomas is terrific as Shannon, showing us the man’s desperation and flights of delirium as well as his yearnings for peace and security, suitably moving from, in his words, the “fantastic” and the “realistic.” Julie O’Neill brings grace, charm and resiliency to the role of Hannah Jelkes, the bohemian artist who escorts her somewhat renowned grandfather from one destination to the next while keeping her own desires closely checked.

Other Info: There’s fine supporting work, too, by MaryBeth Sherr as the uninhibited, amiable proprietor, Bruce Collins as the aged but refined and dapper poet and Sally Eaton as the stern, unflinching head of the ladies’ group. Ben Ritchie, Hal Scharf, Charlie Heuvelman, Mo Monahan, Lindsey Trout, Alan David and Carlos Michael Hagene contribute as well to the fine overall effect of the production.

Meticulously constructed, smoothly paced and handsomely executed, The Night of the Iguana is a splendid representation of one of the best efforts of America’s poet playwright.

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.