Tennessee Williams' darkly comic psychodrama, Kingdom of Earth, under the direction of Mark Rucker, inaugurated a new Yale Repertory Theatre space — the flexible black-box called the New Theater, Oct. 30.
Kingdom of Earth, which began previews Oct. 25 and continues performances to Dec. 1, is the first Yale Rep production to be presented in the 200-seat Yale School of Drama New Theater at Holcombe T. Green Jr. Hall (its official name), located at 1156 Chapel St. Rucker's staging is a quasi proscenium 175-seat setup, with audience directly in front of the stage. As is the case with black boxes, seating capacity and configuration are adjusted to best suit the production.
"Kingdom of Earth is just the play to introduce Rep audiences to the New Theater," said Stan Wojewodski, Jr., dean of Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre's artistic director, in a statement. "Williams' deeply personal and yet broadly comic piece requires a space that is responsive to both its power and its intimacy so that the subtlety of the play can work, and the enormity of dramatic situation can land."
The bizarrely sexual and darkly comic thriller, Kingdom of Earth is a 1975 rewrite of a 1968 Williams play, The Seven Descents of Myrtle, about "a trio of misfits in a dilapidated Mississippi farmhouse endangered by an encroaching flood."
A frail, effeminate man named Lot, in the last stages of tuberculosis, returns home with his wife of 24 hours, the aging showgirl Myrtle, fueling the longstanding feud with his half brother, Chicken, over the ownership of the family estate. As rising flood waters threaten her new home, Myrtle, who is alternately frightened and fascinated by the brutish Chicken, makes several trips down to his kitchen lair from the upstairs bedroom, where her new husband is fighting for breath and his sense of reality. The cast includes Cindy Katz as Myrtle, Joey Collins as Lot and Jack Gwaltney as Chicken.
The Seven Descents of Myrtle was a Broadway flop for Williams, whose The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire are held up as classics of the 20th century American stage. Estelle Parsons starred as Myrtle. Williams revised the script and it was staged in 1975 at The McCarter Theatre as Kingdom of Earth.
"I have always thought of Kingdom of Earth as a Tennessee Williams primer," Yale Rep literary manager and resident dramaturg Catherine Sheehy said in press notes. "It's got everything you expect from a Williams play: a faded belle (who happens in this case to be a man), a brutish animal type who's irresistible to women, a bigger-than-life heroine in a tough spot, and a rocking chair in the moonlight. And this all comes at you with startling humor in great theatrical language. In writing Kingdom of Earth, Williams cheerfully borrowed from the Bible, mythology, and most blatantly himself."
Designers are Mikiko Suzuki (scenic), Jenny Mannis (costume), Agnieszka Kunska (lighting) and Fitz Patton (sound).
Tickets range $22-$39. For more information, call (203) 432 1234 or visit www.yalerep.org.
Yale Repertory Theatre is the resident professional Equity theatre operating in three spaces at Yale University — the New Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre (a proscenium thrust with 483 seats) and the University Theatre (a proscenium with 650 seats on a main floor and balcony).
— By Kenneth Jones