Story: Up on Blue Mountain there’s a clan called the Wingfields who are a tad peculiar. Mama Amanda, overly if not flatteringly endowed and driven by a ravenous appetite, likes to bore her two adult children to tears with stories of the “17 gentleman callers” who paid a visit to her one Sunday down South when she was a much-admired Southern belle. Or so she recalls it.
Her hunchbacked, lascivious son Tom is constantly incurring her displeasure for spending so many nights at “the theater” until well into the wee hours of the morning. Then there’s Laura, the “crippled” one, who meanders around the house in a blood-stained smock of a dress she drapes over her adult diaper while painstakingly caring for the glass animal figurines which populate two shelves of her “menajoree” table.
When they’re not mocking each other Amanda finally convinces Tom to bring home a good-lookin’ fella from where he works to meet her, er, make that Laura. Tom behaves himself long enough to convince colleague Jim O’Connor to accompany him to dinner at the bizarre Wingfield abode.
Laura is afraid of everything, but will she summon up the fortitude to meet this young man? By the way, turns out Jim went to high school with Laura, where he called her “Blue Roses” when she said she suffered from pleurisy. Heck, she even saved a copy of their yearbook, which she shows him after dinner. Dinner by candlelight, since Tom forgot to pay the electric bill.
Tom is mentally disturbed, Amanda is oversexed and under-mannered and Laura is just plain and plain weird. Can a normal guy like Jim bring a little salvation to this backwoods brood?
Highlights: YoungLiars presents a new company in town called Ten Directions, which showcases a “bouffon” (dancing buffoon) comedy based oh-so-loosely on the classic drama by Tennessee Williams. It’s a parody you won’t soon forget, with enough fitful comedy to get past the abundant bad taste.
Other Info: YoungLiars warns in its news release that this one-act, 90-minute show is definitely not for children, even if it is childish. It’s scandalous, outrageous, in the poorest of taste and also downright hilarious much of the time.
Let’s let Ten Directions describe it: “Gentleman callers beware: The Wingfields plume their nest with broken glass, twisted morals and perverted minds...Tom, Amanda and Laura claim no responsibility for hurt feelings or offended sentiments...Why would anyone do this to an American masterpiece?”
Probably because the trio of Lynn Berg, Audrey Crabtree and Aimee German are funny as hell and unapologetic for their gross behavior. Their Wingfields more closely resemble the Peacock family in the infamous Home episode of The X Files than the delicate flowers of Amanda’s faded Southern beauty, Laura’s fragile psyche and Tom’s moody desperation in Williams’ unforgettable “memory play” based on his own family.
Performed by Berg as Tom, Crabtree as Laura and German as Amanda and written by the trio along with director Eric Davis, Bouffon Glass Menajoree throws caution to the wind while it spits in the eyes of its alarmed audience. One of the patrons, in fact, is selected at random each night to portray the Gentleman Caller.
Wouldn’t you know it, "fate" played a hand Thursday evening when local actor Cassidy Michael Flynn was plucked out of his front-row seat and into the hellish action on stage. Flynn didn’t miss a beat, bringing his wide-eyed delight to the goings-on to make everything just a bit more palatable, a sliver of normalcy amid the decadent behavior of this grotesque group.
Seriously, if you’re up for something different and don’t mind seeing cucumbers, butter and other edibles assaulted by German, Berg gesticulating in suggestive manner or Crabtree shouting incomprehensible epithets to the indifferent fates, you’re likely to enjoy the wild ride. Berg might even toss you a beer, which helps considerably when some of the jokes fall with a thud and linger far too long.
Davis’ scenic design is a twisted concoction consisting of a large ladder, an empty portrait frame, a door at stage right and a box of sorts in the middle, all lit effectively by James Wulfsong. The “little masks” are by Stanley Allen Sherman and Davis provides the original music.
You may know Tennessee Williams, and The Glass Menagerie may be a literary friend of yours. Bouffon Glass Menajoree will not be confused with high art, but it will likely make you laugh even if you squirm and wince while you do.
Play: Bouffon Glass Menajoree
Company: Ten Directions, Presented by YoungLiars
Venue: Centene Center for Arts and Education, 3547 Olive Street
Dates: March 9, 10
Tickets: $20; contact brownpapertickets.org
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Bram Muller and Maike Shultz