Tennessee Williams' classic takes flight in New Canaan
Amid this season of new beginnings, the Town Players of New Canaan will be delving into a different type of fresh start when it stages Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" for its spring production.
"Tennessee Williams is one of my favorite playwrights, and this is one of my favorite plays," said Gary Battaglia of Wilton, who is the director for the production. "I think because of its universal themes, anyone can relate to the story."
This 1959 play, which came after some of the playwright's other successes, such as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," revisits some of Williams' common themes, particularly that "people's lives do not always work out as planned," Battaglia said.
The show will run three weekends, Friday, May 4, to Saturday, May 19, at the Powerhouse Theatre at Waveny Park in New Canaan.
The story focuses on Chance Wayne, a 29-year-old who has returned to his hometown of St. Cloud, Fla. He is working to revive a sputtering acting career and win over his former lover, Heavenly, the daughter of a local corrupt politician, Boss Finley.
Things are a tad more complicated given the fact that Wayne is traveling in the company of an older actress whose star is fading. Wayne is hoping that Alexandra Del Lago (played by Lynne Bolton of New Canaan), who is traveling under the alias of Princess Kosmonopolis, will be the key to his comeback. Princess, meanwhile, has turned to drugs and alcohol to distract herself from her own shortcomings.
Paul Newman and Geraldine Page created the roles for the original Broadway production and later starred in the 1962 movie adaptation.
"It's a very complicated character," said Norwalk resident Gabriel Morrow of his character, Chance Wayne. "He is looking for the next best thing, even as he is holding on to whatever dreams and minor successes he has had. He tries to build upon that with all these plans and schemes, but he never quite makes it."
This is Morrow's first role with the Town Players. He most recently performed in "The Laramie Project," which was staged by the Bridgeport Theatre Company. Originally from Kentucky, he moved to the Northeast about 10 years ago and has been in Connecticut for the past three years.
A teacher at Darien High School, Morrow also has tapped his professional theatrical background when it comes to working with the high school's theater program. He directed the school's fall production of "Dracula."
Without giving away the ending, Morrow said he sees Chance as a tragic figure who is struggling to achieve his "last hurrah."
"Each character has to confront his or her own issues, in terms of mortality and certainly in terms of their youth," he added.
For the characters in the play, dreams and hopes flutter out of the characters' grasps, as disappointments and regrets pile up and youth takes flight.
"Williams is the quintessential American playwright and his play is about loss of youthful beauty and innocence and the effect this loss has on all the characters," Battaglia said. "As Williams says in the play, `that bird that sails away with your youth.' Most people look back at innocence and everyone has sadness in their lives."
The rest of the cast includes many local actors and those with other ties to the area. Michael Kopko of Nantucket, Mass., will play Boss Finley. A 1976 Staples High School graduate, he was a member of the school's Staples Players. Bobby Pavia of Stamford plays Finley's son, Tom Jr. New Canaan resident Janet Rathert will play Heavenly. Kathleen Klatte of Yonkers, N.Y., will play Aunt Nonnie. Susan Doran of New Canaan will be Miss Lucy, Boss' mistress.
Performances are at Powerhouse Theatre, Waveny Park, 677 South Ave., New Canaan on Friday and Saturday, May 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m.; Sunday May 6 and 13 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults; $15 students, seniors. 203-966-7371, www.tpnc.org.