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Local theaters celebrate Tennessee Williams' 100th birthday with a trio of plays

February 14, 2011 |  9:00 am

CaminoTennessee Williams, America's dramatist-poet of lost souls, would have turned 100 in March. Three local theaters are marking the occasion by giving audiences the chance to see some of his infrequently performed works, including his final full-length play.

"Camino Real," directed by Jessica Kubzansky, opened Saturday and runs through March 13 at the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena in a co-production with the California Institute of the Arts School of Theater.

The West Coast premiere of Williams' final full-length play, "A House Not Meant to Stand," directed by Simon Levy, will open Feb. 26 and run through April 17 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.

"The Eccentricities of a Nightingale," directed by Damaso Rodriguez, will open March 19 and run through May 28 at A Noise Within in Glendale.

The theaters are offering a "Ten/Tenn" program in which anyone who buys a regular-priced ticket to one of the three productions is eligible for a $10 discount on admission to the other productions.

Kubzansky, Boston Court's co-artistic director, calls "Camino Real" -- which premiered in 1953 -- "possibly the most unexpected Williams play ... a beautiful and surreal adventure that is a huge directorial challenge and a real behemoth." Twenty actors portray 65 characters drawn from literature, history and the author's imagination. Kubzansky, a CalArts alum, says the show represents Boston Court's first formal collaboration with her alma mater and features a cast of students, faculty and outside professionals and an all-student design team.

Levy, producing director of the Fountain, says the theater was able to present "A House Not Meant to Stand" thanks to "relationships we have developed with the Williams estate and one of the primary publishers of Tennessee's work." The comedy debuted at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 1982, the year before the writer's death. "It's about a wild and wacky Mississippi dysfunctional family," says Levy, "a combination of black comedy and that deep heart we associate with Tennessee, as well as other theatrical elements he was experimenting with at the time."

A Noise Within initially selected "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale" not because of the centennial but because "we love the play and we love Tennessee Williams," says Geoff Elliott, co-artistic director of the classical repertory company. Williams' retelling of his "Summer and Smoke" depicts "a young woman, a really joyful spirit, caught in a world that ceaselessly judges her," Elliott says. "Like many of his works it's heartbreaking, it's funny, it's a beautiful experience."

Last fall, L.A. got an early start on celebrating Williams' 100th birthday with two very different productions of the author's memory plays. The Center Theatre Group presented Gordon Edelstein's staging of the 1944 classic "The Glass Menagerie." And REDCAT hosted the U.S. premiere of the Wooster Group's eccentric multimedia version of the 1977 drama "Vieux Carr√©."

RELATED:

Theater review: 'Vieux Carre' at REDCAT

Critic's Notebook: Wooster Group revives Tennessee Williams' 'Vieux Carre'

Theater review: 'The Glass Menagerie' at the Mark Taper Forum

Tennessee Williams' 'The Glass Menagerie' speaks to Judith Ivey

 -- Karen Wada

Photo: Marissa Chibas, Tim Cummings and, rear, Brian Tichnell in "Camino Real" at the Theatre @ Boston Court. Credit: Ed Krieger / Boston Court

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