Tennessee Williams Stripped of Illusion in Orange Theatre Group's You You Shouldn't Come Back
The setup: Orange Theatre Group, not unlike the ASU Herberger College grad cohort that more or less begat it, Interrobang, and its other offshoot, festina lente, is committed to pushing the envelope of new drama, developing performance that connects with varying degrees of tenacity to the existing texts it's often inspired by or based on. Besides healthy doses of pop culture, humor, shock, and nihilism, Orange adds a strong and purposeful multimedia component to the deconstruction/reconstruction.
Joya Scott From left, William Crook, Tucker Bingham (backstage in blue shirt), Sarah Harvey, Chelsea Pace, and Katrina Donaldson in You You Shouldn't Come Back
OTG's current production, You You Shouldn't Come Back, is really quite a bit like the beginning and middle of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. It doesn't ask nearly the appreciation or even tolerance for totally fucked-up weirdness that a typical evening with Orange might require of its audience members.
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The execution: The environment of the show is sort of like a rehearsal/runthrough of something that appears that it will be a videorecorded version of Sweet Bird with a few loungey and 1980s musical interludes. The actors start and stop and rush through lines and moodily cut numbers short; a floor manager calls out commands and reads stage directions (and those of Williams are famously florid, so when they get played with, it's fun).
The performance venue, part of an old industrial warehouse, is appropriately reminiscent of a vast, blank soundstage. Videographer Tucker Bingham becomes part of the action, moving cameras and microphones around and sometimes playing bit parts. There are moments of "behind the scenes" dissonance and humor that make literal the figurative concept that all is not what it seems.
As the promotional materials state, "The story of the past is created in the present and the real is created on TV." The experience of watching You You Shouldn't Come Back is flavored by one's own attitudes and experiences, which is, yes, true of all art, but in this situation a psychic space is created for just that mental activity. Does it make something more or less real to repeat it, to record it, to get it a little bit wrong?
Most of the "scenes" here are between opportunistic gigolo and would-be actor Chance Wayne and the somewhat older film star he's attached himself to, Alexandra Del Lago, a.k.a. Princess Kosmonopolis. William Crook and Katrina Donaldson (who was the captivating solo performer in hair & fingernails) shift among playing those characters, playing versions of themselves as actors, and playing a couple showing each other how to make (fully clothed) amateur porn. They are quite compelling to watch.