Talk To Me Like The Rain – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by P McGovern
July 24 – September 09, 2017
Time: 1pm (doors at 12.50pm)
Tennessee Williams’s double bill, This Property Is Condemned and Talk To Me Like The Rain And Let Me Listen, offers a rare opportunity to see these plays, seldom performed in Dublin. Even if rarely seen, the characters and situations will be familiar from his great, full-length plays. This applies particularly to Willie, the female character in This Property Is Condemned. Brittle, broken by her experience of neglect and abuse of one kind or another, she takes refuge in flights of fantasy and make-believe, clinging desperately to hope of a brighter future. She is a recognisable variation on both Laura and Amanda from The Glass Menagerie, with strong echoes too of Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire, but with the added pathos of being a young teenager, out of her depth in the world of hardened railworker lodgers in her mother’s boarding house.
Clasping her bedraggled doll and wearing the soiled cast-offs of her dead sister, she evokes the back story of her family life in her mother’s ‘boarding house’, for want of a better description. It is, of course, the property that is ‘condemned’ – in more senses than one – with its stream of gentlemen callers and her late sister as “the main attraction”. Willie, too, has cavorted with men, but only when she “was lonely”. Poised between sexual desire and fear of men like so many Williams heroines, she rejects the advances of young Tom; she only wants “experienced men with good jobs”. Maria Guiver looks the part of Willie and brings out much of the character’s vulnerability. However, straining to perfect the deep-south accent sometimes gets in the way of the characterisation, making it a struggle to hear what it is being said. This will no doubt improve as the show settles into its groove.
Daniel Monaghan is vocally secure throughout and totally convincing as Tom. If his physique is clearly not that of an older teenager, as written by Williams, he captures the lad’s gauche simplicity and innocence, right down to his clumsy sexual overture to Willie.
The second item on the bill is Talk To Me Like The Rain And Let Me Listen. The dramatic context of the play is deliberately unclear. An unnamed man and unnamed woman share a room and a bed, never connecting, longing for love but locked into their own isolation. There’s a broken doll here too – a different one, but the symbolism is mounting. As in the first play, lack of vocal clarity means that some of the woman’s great, final monologue is lost. Otherwise, both performances are strong, capturing the essence of Williams’s obsession with desire, loneliness and the frantic, futile search for love.
Set designs by Seamus O’Rourke are superb, two equally evocative but very different sets converting one into the other with the minimum of effort or disruption. Colm Maher’s lighting and sound and Sorcha Ní Fhloinn’s costume designs are equally impressive in their fine detailing. Direction is by Bairbre Ní Chaoimh.
As it settles into its run, this show will be well worth catching as it continues at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, at I pm daily Monday – Saturday, until September 9th.