Review: Green Eyes
A lost Tennessee Williams one-act gets the site-specific treatment.
Mon Jan 10 2011
Photograph: Ves Pitts
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
When Erin Markey, naked save for a distressed pair of panties, struts and frets before you in the intimate, site-specific staging of the Tennessee Williams curio Green Eyes, you will be hard-pressed not to stare intently at her body, mere inches from your nose. Such scrutiny springs not from lust, but forensic concern: Markey's chest and thighs are practically tattooed with bruises and abrasions from (we learn) a previous night's bout of rough sex. But this performer gives such a feral and sheerly carnal impression, the question inevitably forms: Did she cut and pummel herself minutes before taking the stage?
Makeup is probably the explanation, but Markey seems so compellingly bonkers, you fear for her safety—and your own, since director Travis Chamberlain crams his actors and 14 or so audience members into a small hotel room on West 58th Street. There, we're seated on the front line of the erotic war zone that is the marriage of Mrs. Claude Dunphy (Markey) and her drunken, impotent, jealous spouse (Couperthwaite). He spent the night bar-hopping; she's sexually frustrated; he found a stranger's condom in the toilet; if he won't screw her, she'd just as soon go out sightseeing. In five days he has to rotate back to active duty in Vietnam, which already seems to have driven him mad. In 40 intense minutes, the newlyweds tease each other, viciously quarrel, engage in foreplay and generally behave like Maggie the Cat and Brick—but with wartime references and permission to drop the f-bomb.
Chamberlain does skillful reconstruction on Williams's early-'70s draft manuscript (which is fragmentary and was never produced in his lifetime), adding stage directions to what reads, really, like a radio drama. He layers helicopter and gunfire sounds effects and expressionistic green lights into the mini mise-en-scne, effectively conjuring the overlap of war trauma and sexual jealousy. For Williams completists, the overall experience will be more of an addendum and less of a canon expansion. Similarly, Green Eyes is like a cheap tryst in a crummy hotel: brief, nasty and unsatisfying in just the right way.
Hudson. By Tennessee Williams. Dir. Travis Chamberlain. With Erin Markey, Adam Couperthwaite. 40mins. No intermission.