THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY a smash hitat Rhino

Pictured from left to right: Ryan Tasker as Felice and Alexandra Creighton as Clare in The Two-Character Play by Tennessee Williams. A Theatre Rhinoceros production at The Eureka Theatre. Costumes by Christine U'Ren, photo by Kent Taylor.

THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY: Drama. By Tennessee Williams. Directed by John Fisher. Theatre Rhinoceros, Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., San Francisco. (800) 838-3006 or Through January 15, 2012.

What a difference three hours can make. Due to personal time constraints it was necessary and convenient to see rarely produced, and diametrically opposite genres of two of Tennessee Williams’ plays. For the matinee there was the pleasure of SF Playhouse’s production Period of Adjustment and for the evening there was the engrossing dramatic revival of The Two-Character Play by Theatre Rhinoceros at the Eureka Theatre.

Period of Adjustment opened in 1960 and was Williams’ only comedy and six years later, he had to undergo his period of adjustment due to severe depression after the death of Frankie Merlo, his longtime partner and a late loss of critical acclaim for his plays. The two character play suffered at the hands of the critics when it opened in London in 1967. Since that time it underwent multiple revisions with a successful San Francisco staging in 1975 directed by Lyle Leverich.

The characters are Felice ( Ryan Tasker) actor, playwright and company manager and his drug dependent temperamental sister Clare (Alexandra Creighton). Felice is constantly peeking through the non-existent curtain at a non-existing audience. They are without money and the play they continue to perform is probably the re-living of their lives in memory. Their unnamed insane father was an astrology who shot his wife (their mother) and committed suicide with the youngsters watching.

When the play opens it is 40 years later and the memory is still with them and they re-enact that fateful scene. They cannot move past that mind altering event. Felice is working on his great masterpiece, a play called “The Two-Character Play” – where they act out the trauma inflicted during the aftermath of their tragedy. The two characters in the play within the play are brother and sister actors who have been abandoned by their traveling company in an unnamed town. They are continually, performing, rehearsing and rewriting “the two character play” because they are trapped in the story of their lives. Neither of them want the play to end and because they are unable to accept the reality of the past. There are multiple layers of intrigue, mystery, fantasy, devastating memories, fear and sexual innuendo within the story line that is sometimes confusing but always riveting.

John Fisher’s direction is painstakingly marvelous and the fine performances by Alexandra Creighton and Ryan Tasker create depth to Tennessee’s poetic, tortured lines. Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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