Saturday, July 28, 2012

Come Back Little Sheba

COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA explores playwright’s hidden fears

The 1950s gave birth to a new movement in American theatre. Modernism used psychological concepts to look at a real world. Three writers emerged as the flag bearers of the movement….Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and William Inge.

The sophisticated Easterner, Miller, asked, “Is this the best way to live?” Think THE CRUCIBLE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and ALL MY SONS.

Williams, a Southerner, using much personal experience, developed emotionally loaded instances of women caught in situations that they didn’t understand, surrounded by people who didn’t understand them. Think Blanche in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Maggie in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and Amanda in GLASS MENAGERIE.

Inge, a Midwesterner, was brought up with extreme Christian morality. He was a sensitive man, filled with self-doubt, who was haunted by his fear of exposure as a homosexual. He took his own life when he could no longer live with his intrapersonal conflicts. His life and writing can best be described by the title of one of his most potent plays, THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS.

The Shaw is staging Inge’s COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA. It is a play filled with people trapped in lives of fear and forced consequences, purposelessness, and unfulfilled desires, who are searching for that which has disappeared, run away or never really was.

The play’s setting is a cramped and cluttered house in an unnamed Midwestern city. Doc Delaney, a once promising medical student, impregnated and married the airheaded Lola out of forced necessity, thus throwing away a career and settling for a life of rage and drunkenness.
Lola, lost the baby, and wanders aimlessly through a purposeless life. In order to make ends meet they take in Marie, a college art student. Lola dotes on her as the child she never had. Overweight and slovenly, Lola engages in flirtations with the milkman and mailman in order to allow herself some contact with the semblance of the beauty she once was.

Doc is filled with lustful desire, jealous of the attention the sensual Lola gets from a college athlete. Eventually, his one-year of sobriety is lost when he finds out the boarder is not the pure young thing he fantasizes her to be, thus allowing him to return to a state of rage and regrets.

Sheba is a dog which represents the little happiness that Doc and Lola had, but which, like their lives, has run away. Sheba disappeared like any hope for a happy life for these lost people who are stuck in a circle of prior deeds, societal rules, and the inability to break from their patterns.
It’s a tale that mimics the pattern of Inge’s own life.

The Shaw production is excellent. Under the fine-tuned direction of Jackie Maxwell, the action is well paced, focused, and clearly portrays Inge’s intent and purpose. The action is enhanced by Christina Poddubiuk’s cramped set, with it’s illusion of the walls and surrounding buildings sucking the very breath out of the dwelling.

Corrine Koslo inhabits the role of Lola. This is a confused woman, caught in the trap of life, not possessing the knowledge or instincts to do anything except exist. She is as good as Shirley Booth who portrayed Lola in the original Broadway production and the fine film version of COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA.

Ric Reid plays Doc with the right balance of compassion and wrath. We clearly observe his internal fight for doing “the right thing,” while rage boils. This is a man trapped, but like the play’s author, not having the ability to fulfill his needs.

Julia Course (Marie), Kevin McGarry (Turk, the athlete), Sharry Flett (Mrs. Coffman, the next door neighbor), and Andrew Bunker (Marie’s boyfriend) all help to clearly flesh out the action.

Capsule judgement: Shaw’s COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA is theatre and Inge at their finest. Maxwell has honed a production that demands to be seen!