By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Dado
At A Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago
Haunting dream-like glimpse of the underbelly of New Orleans is marvelously presented
Williams referred to The Mutilated as “an allegory on the tragicomic subject of human existence on this risky planet.” Presented on an imaginative set (designed by Grant Savin) that featured rows of small lights, including Christmas lights since it is Christmas Eve in New Orleans, The Militated stretches our view of what it is to be human through the eyes of two disenchanted woman. We see them interact with all the holiday revelers who dress funky as they create blues music to underscore their melancholy.
At the dive Silver Dollar Hotel in the French Quarter, Trinket (the haunting Mierka Gerten) is holed up in her dazzlingly lighted room drinking her pain away as she guards her secret, her mutilation. On that day, Celeste (the terrific emotionally wrenched Jennifer Engstrom), gets released from jail (for shoplifting). She is broke and in need of a reconciliation with her only friend. Celeste needs a place to stay, some booze, and the good graces of Trinket. But rejection looms.
Sprinkled with Dixie blues, The Mutilated is an ensemble triumph with many of A Red Orchid’s best players contributing to create the bleakness of the lowlife folks. Cruelty, con men, cops, hookers, drunks, street musicians, and assorted weirdos inhabit the mean streets around the Silver Dollar Hotel on that Christmas Eve. The ensemble work here is astounding and engaging; the mood is infectious.
The two main characters were marvelously performed. Jennifer Engdtrom’s angst, her determination, and her pain were expertly presented. Add the subtle inhibited truthful performance by Mierka Girten as Trinket, the physically “mutilated” soul, and we have two unforgettable characters. Williams’ poetic dialogue is in terrific hands with these two major talents.
As this haunting one-act unfolds, the street musicians sing about “The Miracle” as the two reconcile during a religion infused dream-like episode. After many funny moments, The Mutilated emerges as a powerful examination into the foibles of the human spirit. Our journey during this 90 minute work is nothing short of amazing. The Mutilated is a major theatrical achievement. It will haunt you long after you leave the theatre.
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N.Wells, Chicago, IL, call 312-943-8722, www.aredorchidtheatre.org, tickets $30 – $35, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intersession.