This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen…
From My Seat in the House by Mari Lyn Henry
This Property Is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen are two very short plays by Tennessee Williams which explore the relationships between two people whose lives have been impacted by loss, poverty, addiction, abandonment, and the failure to find salvation. Both of these mood pieces are worth revisiting.
The condemned property refers to an abandoned boarding house which shelters Willie, a teenaged girl who is alone without guidance of any kind. Her dead sister was the town whore and she dresses in her clothes and accessories, shoes and hose and has no friends.
Tom, a high school boy, meets her out of curiosity with the ruse that he’s going to fly his kite. But there’s no wind. She knows he is there to meet her and she gives him a ‘show,’ reckless abandon, lying down on the track with her hosed legs up in the air, laughing wildly, talking about her sister dying of pneumonia and admits that she once danced naked for one of the railroad men. The boy is fascinated by her and wonders if she would dance naked for him, to which she responds that she would only talk to experienced men with good jobs. Out of the mouths of babes comes this startling admission of her fragility and loneliness. Just as her thrill when she hears the sounds of the trains in the distance, like the Cannonball Express, echoes her desire to fly away.
Set in an abandoned stretch of railroad track which she uses as her playground in a town in rural Mississippi, this playlet captures a 13 year old’s bravery facing a loss of her innocence. Emily Desotelle as Willie embodies that innocence and masks her pain with lively movements and empty laughter, flirting with Tom with a smear of lipstick from her sister’s makeup box and playing dress up with her sister’s tawdry wardrobe. Alex Kelly is perfectly cast as Tom with a sincerity and curiosity that are totally believable.
Normally played by older actors, Emily and Alex are gifted teenagers who learned the rhythms of speech in Mississippi, thanks to their dialect coach Page Clements.
Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen concerns a man and a woman living in poverty in a rooming house on the lower East Side of Manhattan. He is an unemployed alcoholic; she lives with him in a sea of uncertainty and hungry for a better life. In this production the rain is real and connects beautifully to her thirst for escape. The monologues each have are poetic in their imagery and some of the author’s best. The man utters complaints like “People do terrible things to a person when he’s unconscious in the city…and is physically hurting.” He implores her to “talk to me like the rain.” And finally she does . . . in an outpouring of her desires and dreams for a better life.
Annie R. Such and Erik Endsley bring pathos, compassion, and beautifully etched subtext to their characters.
Well-directed by John DeSotelle and Judith Feingold with excellent set design and costume design by You-Shin-Shen and Jud Hinojosa respectively.
The Nuance Theatre, 300 W. 43rd St., 3rd Floor
Friday and Saturday evenings, May 29, May 30, June 5, 6 at 8PM
Thursdays, May 28 and June 4 at 7PM
Sundays, May 31 and June 7 at 5PM
Saturday matinee, June 6 at 3PM
Tickets $20 online www.nuancetheatre.com