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White Horse Theater Company Presents Tennessee Williams' "Small Craft Warnings"
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White Horse Theater Company Presents Tennessee Williams' "Small Craft Warnings"

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Small Craft Warnings
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Cyndy A. Marion

White Horse Theater Company
The Workshop Theater Company
312 West 36th Street

Graham Anderson as Monk
Patrick Terance McGowan as Doc
Andrea Maulella as Violet
Rod Sweitzer as Bill
Linda S. Nelson as Leona
Peter Bush as Steve
Christopher Johnson as Quentin
Tommy Heleringer as Bobby
Mark Ransom as Tony

Set Design: John C. Scheffler
Lighting Design: Debra Leigh Siegel
Costume Design: David B. Thompson
Incidental Music: Joe Gianono
Asst. Director: Leigh Hile
Dramaturg: Vanessa R. Bombardieri
Stage Manager: Elliot Lanes
Assoc. Producer: John Chatterton
Press: DARR Publicity

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 25, 2008

There are plays that disturb our psychic equilibrium more than others, force us to think deep, and Small Craft Warnings is one of those plays. Tennessee Williams wrote this work, among his last (1972), and the themes sweep the audience through pangs of loneliness, remorse, financial and/or career failure, loss of love, rejection, homelessness, and sheer madness. Williams had been depressed and drinking himself through the passing years, and many of his personal experiences, fears, and destroyed dreams came to life through the eight washed up characters, in this bar along the Pacific, like flotsam and jetsam. Watching this two and one-half hour play was hard work, even with the intermission, as the characters scream in anguish, inflict physical and psychic wounds on each other, and even have prolonged sex beneath the tabletop. The lashing ocean can be heard, offstage, like the lashing of life, altering the essence of those souls in its wake.

The beachfront bar, Monk’s Place, is named for the bar’s owner, a patient and quiet man, Monk (Graham Anderson), who just wants to make a profit and harbor those altered souls, who seek refuge from the turbulent world and from their turbulent obsessions. Monk keeps the police at bay, by offering them drinks and then the rest of the bottle. The ninth character, Tony the Cop (Mark Ransom), confirms Monk’s survival mechanism. Now, let’s examine the seven lead characters. Leona (Linda S. Nelson), a beautician from a trailer park, is marking her gay brother’s Death Day, by playing Heifetz on Monk’s jukebox, a soulful “Serenade” that her brother had performed on his violin. The music bonds her to her grief, so she can feel it. But, she cannot exorcise it, as she laments that the heart “cannot throw up its memories, as can the stomach”. As a result, Leona lashes in fury, like torrential waves, at Violet, Bill, Doc, and an offstage cop. Leona is the strongest character in this production. Her physique and personality are imposing and inescapable.

Violet (Andrea Maulella), a homeless nymphomaniac, survives on sexual favors. Her greatest challenge in this work was to take a shower, upstairs, before bedding Monk for a night indoors, and the play ends with the sound of water, a symbolic image, again, that contrasts to the exterior crashing waves. Bill (Rod Sweitzer), another hustler and drifter, has used up his favors with Leona, as he publicly succumbs to Violet’s advances, and there is an underlying sexual identity issue, as Bill gazes piercingly at Quentin. Quentin (Christopher Johnson), an aging homosexual, failed screenwriter, arrives at Monk’s Place with the much younger Bobby (Tommy Heleringer), whom he has picked up on the road. Bobby is biking from Iowa to Mexico, and Quentin has designs for a rest stop at his home. Quentin and Bobby are quiet characters, a respite from the turmoil, and Leona is drawn to them today, in a reminder of her brother’s world. In fact, Monk initially rejected these customers, trying to send them to the local gay bar, for fear of complications. It was the grieving Leona who welcomed them and kept the peace, but just for this moment.

Two other characters have washed up as “regulars”, Doc and Steve. Doc (Patrick Terance McGowan) is an alcoholic, unlicensed doctor, who still practices, to horrendous results. When Doc gets the call to travel to Leona’s trailer park to deliver a baby, he needs several swigs to make it out the door. Some action occurs, as Leona tries to stave off the inevitable tragedy awaiting the mother in labor. Monk intervenes, as, again, he keeps the peace for pragmatic survival. Steve (Peter Bush) is the least pitiable of the characters, as he refuses his “girlfriend” Violet a substantive dinner, instead offering her beer after beer, as she gives him her special “favors”. This play, as stated above, is hard work for the audience, as there is much wailing, screaming, fighting, and graphic eroticism. However, it creates a catharsis, as the characters survive, and, amazingly, even find laughs on release of their own demons. Without doubt, this play is also hard work for the actors, and they seemed understandably drained at the curtain.

Patrick McGowan as Doc and Graham Anderson as Monk
in "Small Craft Warnings"
Courtesy of Joe Bly

Rod Sweitzer as Bill and Andrea Maulella as Violet.
Background: Linda S. Nelson as Leona,
Patrick McGowan as Doc, and Graham Anderson as Monk
in "Small Craft Warnings"
Courtesy of Joe Bly

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