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PushPush Theater1
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Confessional, by Tennessee Williams
This place ain't "Cheers"
Monday, February 21, 2011
4.5
PushPush may be the only theater in town with a lobby (lounge) larger than its “theater”, so they occasionally use it for their production space. That’s what they’re doing now with their run of Confessional by Tennessee Williams. The story takes place in a bar, Monk’s, and it didn’t take much to reconfigure the lobby for the purpose. So there is no fourth wall or, in fact, any walls. You’re in the thick of it from start to finish.

But Monk’s is no “Cheers”. The patrons are all troubled souls. The ponderous slow moving proprietor, Monk (Patrick Wood), only wants to keep a quiet place below police radar, yet he thrives on the chaos brought in by his regulars. There’s Leona (Claire Christie) who begins the show furious with Violet (Jennifer Bates) over a little under-the-table hand play with boy friend Bill (Stewart McDaniel). It’s nothing new for any of them. Leona can’t hold on to a boyfriend, best friend, a job or much of anything. That’s why she lives in a house on wheels. Violet feels no guilt because she’s just relying on her one skill. And quite a skill it is. She’s an ambidextrous multi-tasker. Bill likewise feels guiltless. He has long made his way in the world by exploiting his sexual prowess which, Leona assures him, will not last forever.

Other regulars include Doc (Daniel Burnley), a drunk de-licensed doctor hitting rock bottom, and Steve (Steve Capps) a sometime boyfriend of Violet with no prospects. And there’s a pair first time visitors, a washed up gay screenwriter (Stewart McDaniel, again) and his boy-conquest (Wade Tilden) who seem to wander in only to reveal their troubles.
(McDaniel’s brief piece here is one of the most compelling moments of the play.)

There’s lot of exposition here (monologue confessions) and there is little plot. None of the characters emerge as heroes, none of their troubles are resolved, and none of the confessions gain absolution.

Still, it is a masterfully crafted play and PushPush has presented it wonderfully. The stand-outs are Claire Christie whose Leona powerfully, often frenetically, drives the whole works, and Monk’s bar itself. Director Tim Habeger has created a welcoming sense of place by including the audience in the scene. You may not be part of the cast, but you’ll definitely feel like part of the scenery,

They’re are only three shows left. Don’t miss it. And if you’re nice maybe Violet will join you at your table.

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