“Everyone is sensitive to something”
Given the amount of writing that Tennessee Williams produced – not a year goes past without a premiere of some new short play or other by him – it’s no surprise that there’s a good deal of his work that falls into the little-performed category. A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one such play, written in 1976 and now revived at Notting Hill’s Print Room, directed by Michael Oakley.
In a St Louis, Missouri apartment sometime in the 1930s, a group of women spend a sweltering Sunday preparing for a picnic, illuminating as Williams so often does, the precarious nature of women’s place in society. All four are single but at different stages in their life and naturally it is the youngest – civics teacher Dorothea – who is the driving force, believing she has the most at stake.
After a dalliance with the handsome Ralph Ellis in the backseat of a car, she thinks she’s set for the future. Her older flatmate Bodey and colleague Helena know better but each have strikingly different plans for their friend, the one thing in common is that they don’t want to end up like the strange Miss Gluck from upstairs. And that is pretty much it, familiar themes reworked but with little of the subtlety that characterises the best of Williams’ work.
Oakley does his best to invest the material with depth, aided by a strong cast, but they have to overcome a clumsily comic, almost caricaturish, vibe. Debbie Chazen’s maternal-ish Bodey and Hermione Gulliford’s brittle Helena give impressive portrayals of the middle-age of which Laura Rogers’ Dorothea is terrified, obsessively working through her keep-fit routines even as her dreams of romantic bliss slip further away,
Fotini Dimou’s beautifully appointed set fits perfectly into the former cinema surroundings of the Coronet, even if it does then look a little too good for purpose (Helena wants to take Dorothea away from her pokey surroundings…). And all in all, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur feels more like a play for Williams completists rather than your casual fan.