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Cause Célèbre Presents "The Pretty Trap" by Tennessee Williams at Acorn Theatre
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Cause Célèbre Presents "The Pretty Trap" by Tennessee Williams at Acorn Theatre

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Cause Célèbre
Artistic Director: Susan Charlotte
in assoc. with
Mary J. Davis

Presents the NY Premiere of:

The Pretty Trap
(Cause Célèbre Website)

By Tennessee Williams
(Tennessee Williams Bio)
Directed by Antony Marsellis

Acorn Theatre
Theatre Row
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Katherine Houghton
Robert Eli, Loren Dunn, Nisi Sturgis

Scenic Designer: Ray Klausen
Lighting and Sound: Bernie Dove
Costumes: David Toser
Production Stage Manager: Anita Ross
Asst. to the Producer: Brendan Hill
Stage Manager: C. Renee Alexander
Public Relations: Springer Associates PR

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 3, 2011

The last time I saw Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was a year ago, in a Roundabout production. That fully developed work is a riveting play with predictable emotional tragedies. However, Williams had written an earlier, never-before-seen-in-New York one act piece, somewhat like an artist’s sketch of a visual masterpiece to be painted, and this sketch, The Pretty Trap, is now presented by Cause Célèbre, a non-profit production company that focuses on “psychological, physical and social issues through drama”. Tonight was opening night, and quite a crowd from the theatre community was in attendance. I was even given a private tour of the eclectic set, by none other than the set designer, Ray Klausen, during the After-Party.

Katherine Houghton, who was featured in the 60’s film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, is the eager, yet exhausted Amanda Wingfield, who breathlessly expounds on her youthful, long-lost luster and her years of sacrificial labor for her barely grateful son and daughter. The fact that both grown children are present for much of these monologues means nothing to the needy, self-absorbed Southern dreamer. This Amanda is desperate and driven. She needs a gentleman-caller for her shy, shuffling daughter, Laura (a blond beauty, Nisi Sturgis), who apparently has no skills and no schooling. What Laura has, as those familiar with Menagerie know, is a collection of tiny glass animals, breakable, brittle, and beautiful. Laura’s world exists in the rainbow beams that catch the glass unicorn and aluminate her imagination. But, this night, as it unfolds, is different, as a dashing, dynamic gentleman, Jim, who works at the town factory with Laura’s brother, Tom (Loren Dunn), has been invited to dinner.

In the 2010 Menagerie production, the Wingfields live in a dusty, dreary apartment, but in this staging of The Pretty Trap there are windows that look onto what is assumed to be a more bucolic setting. Also, everything about The Pretty Trap is optimistic, opportunistic, and set with a bit of romance. Laura and Jim dance to big band swooning, and Laura radiates like the rainbow-lit unicorn she adores. In fact, on this night, the unicorn receives a better fate, as does Laura. The Pretty Trap is like a ballet, with Prince and nymph lasting through the night. In fact, I mentioned to Ms. Sturgis, at the Opening Night After-Party that her posture was like the ballet nymph, Giselle, bent forward in the haze, a character forever doomed from her broken heart. Tonight’s Laura fares better than ballet’s Giselle, and, in her dance with her gentleman-caller, she straightened her spine. Ms. Sturgis was the quintessential Laura, with an array or gestures, postures, and vocal inflections. As her mood lightened, her persona sparkled.

Robert Eli, as Jim, was husky, chivalrous, and not the artificial flirt of Menagerie. Something was in the air, during that dance and the kiss that followed, and it was apparent that they’d leave hand in hand. Loren Dunn, as Tom, was less torn and tumultuous than Menagerie’s Tom, more even-tempered and less poetic. This was not the alcohol-infused brute I’ve seen onstage in the latter production. But it’s Katherine Houghton who seizes the stage and steals the show. She devours the air and everyone who breathes it. The Gentleman Caller is her own glowing unicorn, and for a moment I wondered if she’d grab him for herself. Antony Marsellis directs for gestural and vocal nuance, and no time was lost in this enticing production. Ray Klausen’s set is adorned with actual antiquities, like a dried bridal bouquet in glass, old family photos, lace tablecloth and curtains, and an air of Chekhovian tarnish. Bernie Dove keeps the sound crisp and the lighting warm, even when candles come to the rescue. David Toser’s uncluttered costumes adorn Amanda and Laura for the eventful evening. Kudos to Tennessee Williams, and kudos to Cause Célèbre.

Katherine Houghton,
Loren Dunn, Robert Eli
in "The Pretty Trap"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

Katherine Houghton, Nisi Sturgis,
Robert Eli, Loren Dunn
in "The Pretty Trap"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

Katherine Houghton, Robert Eli,
Nisi Sturgis
in "The Pretty Trap"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

Katherine Houghton,
in "The Pretty Trap"
Courtesy of Ben Hider

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at