"Suddenly Last Summer," the Tennessee Williams one-act play that was padded to make a movie as a star vehicle for Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, is full of snares for a small community theater.
The short play is distilled Williams, and there lies the rub for a nonprofessional troupe. Both the strengths and the weaknesses of Williams are a challenge -- the flights of poetic language, the fascinating characters with twisted psyches, the big scenes of dramatic confrontation and, finally, an absurb plot.
The Georgetown Workshop Theatre, now in its 13th year, is fortunate to have veteran actress Evelyn Woolston to carry its production of "Suddenly Last Summer," the centerpiece of a trio of one-act plays being staged on Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays until May 24.
As Mrs. Venable, Woolston is the essence of the jealously possessive mother, clinging to her son in death as well as life. She enters, a fragile-looking elderly southern lady leaning heavily on a cane. Woolston, whose slight stature is made to order for the part, captures Mrs. Venable's obsessed determination to protect her son's memory. In the scene in which she must listen to the horrible tale of her son's death, her face is a mirror of changing emotions.
Other members of the cast give reasonably competent performances even if they do not rise to special distinction. Celeste Morrow is Catherine, the cousin who recounts the story of the son's death as the prey of a vulturine band of homosexual boys on a Mediterranean beach. The hysteria is there but not the essential horror. Robert Stuart is the young, idealistic doctor called in by Mrs. Venable to perform a lobotomy on Catherine to stop her babbling. It isn't a role that offers an actor much chance to be other than a naive young man.
The other two plays in the production are slight items. "Ways and Means" is a witty, sophisticated Noel Coward play with a 1920s setting on the Cote d'Azur. "The Lady of the Larkspur Lotion" is a 10-minute vignette by Williams that deals with his oft-repeated theme of people who need delusions to survive a harsh reality.
In the Noel Coward play, Vicki Smith and Jon Helmrich are properly attractive and charming as the irresponsible young couple who come up with an inspired scheme to replenish their resources -- join forces with a burglar who has come to rob them.
"One by Noel, Two by Tenn" is directed by Frederic Lee. The trio of plays is being staged at the Christ Church Parish Hall, 3116 O St. NW.