By Tennessee Williams; Directed by Everett Quinton
Off Off Broadway, Play Revival
Runs through 3.25.17
292 Theatre, 292 East 3rd Street
by Ran Xia on 3.21.17
Regina Bartkoff in In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel. Photo by Ride Hamilton.
BOTTOM LINE: A deeply personal play that sets up a high-intensity, melodramatic struggle that digs into the characters' psyches and brings out their worst fears.
In 292 Theatre's version of this disturbingly personal Tennessee Williams play, the almost purgatorial hotel bar is a concentrated little universe where all things play out in grotesque exaggeration. Naked obscenity and lust mask the characters' unshakable loneliness and debilitating dread of the lives they are stuck in. An alcoholic painter, Mark (Charles Schick), succumbs to madness on the brink of discovering a new phase of his vision. His wife, the meticulously dressed Miriam (Regina Bartkoff), lives in hysteria and despair, which she channels into terrorizing the Japanese barman (Brandon Lim), trying his best to keep his distance. It's worth mentioning that Ramona Ponce's costume design is excellent in this production.
It is soon apparent that the couple are equally unhinged, despising each other as well as themselves, while pathologically dependent upon each other. Miriam is similar to other Williams characters, such as Lady in Orpheus Descending and Mrs. Flora Goforth from The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore: a painfully practical woman who thirsts for an independent existence. She parades before the young bar man and itemizes her plans to explore Kyoto without her husband, while in fact she is constantly on the verge of a suicidal breakdown. She shows the audience, during her Brechtian moments, a snuff box in which she carries one single lethal pill. The exquisite stuff box is like a loaded gun as it rattles in Miriam's hand.
Mark's existential crises are masked with his neuroses, while Miriam's depression is disguised by bursts of vitality. Although the hysteria is a crucial part of the characters' conflict, the melodramatic style of this production is so pervasive that it robs the play of its nuance and poetry. There could have been a more gradual shift to bring out the intimacy of the scenes, which would make the climatic conflicts more powerful.
(In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel plays at 292 Theatre, 292 East 3rd Street, through March 25, 2017. The running time is one hour and 30 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:30. Tickets are $20 and are available at 292theatre.com.)
In The Bar Of A Tokyo Hotel is by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Everett Quinton. Costume Design is by Ramona Ponce. Light and Sound Design is by Michael Aguirre. Stage Manager is Lorry Kikta.
The cast is Regina Bartkoff, Wayne Henry, Brandon Lim, and Charles Schick.