The Mutilated

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Photograph: Scott Wynn
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The Mutilated

The Mutilated. New Ohio Theatre (see Off-Off Broadway). By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Cosmin Chivu. With Mink Stole, Penny Arcade. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

The Mutilated: In brief

Two very flavorful actors—John Waters muse Mink Stole and downtown mainstay Penny Arcade—play the lead roles in a rare revival of Tennessee Williams's 1966 flop, a broad black comedy about an oil heiress and a prostitute in New Orleans. Cosmin Chivu directs.

The Mutilated: Theater review by Raven Snook

Tennessee Williams must have been downing some seriously spiked eggnog when he wrote The Mutilated, a bitterly funny, booze-soaked holiday tale. Back in 1966, this experimental chamber piece played a handful of performances on Broadway paired with the better-received The Gnädiges Fräulein, and was promptly forgotten. Now director Cosmin Chivu, already known for reviving the playwright’s problematic Something Cloudy, Something Clear, has resurrected it with stellar help from a pair of cult stars and jazzman Jesse Selengut.

Set in a particularly seedy corner of New Orleans’s French Quarter on Christmas Eve, this one-act play chronicles the unlikely reconciliation of estranged friends: over-the-hill prostitute Celeste (stalwart downtown performance artist Penny Arcade) and Trinket (John Waters discovery Mink Stole), an oil heiress and shame-filled breast-cancer survivor. Recently sprung from the clink, Celeste is at her tits’ end, while Trinket is in full-on deluded Blanche DuBois mode, lonely and looking for companionship in all the wrong places. Their cheap-wine-fueled bickering and sordid misadventures are juxtaposed against rousing original tunes by Selengut with evocative lyrics by Williams, beautifully delivered by the onstage band and a gospel chorus of hookers, sailors, drunks and degenerates.

Williams’s heightened naturalism is replaced by gothic vaudeville here, and the leads certainly know how to play it. Diminutive spitfire Arcade is all eye rolls and slurred insults as Celeste, a scrappy survivor who refuses to admit when she’s been beat. Trinket is a more delicate but no less damaged creature, and Stole makes her ridiculous, resilient and moving. No wonder the Grim Reaper (Selengut again) leaves the duo to drink another day as the choir jubilantly sings, “A miracle, a miracle!”

While The Mutilated must have been shocking in its time, today it seems nostalgic, a throwback to an era when “the strange, the crazed, the queer,” as Williams calls them, caroused in the shadows instead of letting their freak flags fly on social media. For anyone who wants to puke at the sight of Tiny Tim, this Christmas carol’s for you.—Theater review by Raven Snook

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