A Red Orchid embraces the eccentric in a largely forgotten Tennessee Williams comedy.
This odd bit of lesser-known Tennessee Williams, originally staged on a double bill with another one-act comedy under the umbrella title Slapstick Tragedy, plays somewhat like the author lovingly parodying himself. It also plays like it could have been commissioned for the ensemble of A Red Orchid Theatre. That's especially true of the two lead characters, a pair of profligate, vagabond frenemies inhabited with infectious gusto by Jennifer Engstrom and Mierka Girten.
Engstrom plays Celeste Delacroix Griffin, freshly sprung from the joint but lacking in funds; the seedy hotel she'd been living at before being picked up for shoplifting has confiscated her belongings. In desperation, she slinks back toward her erstwhile bestie Trinket Dugan, played by Girten.
Trinket, crippled by the shame of her "mutilation"—a mastectomy brought on by cancer—initially resists Celeste's appeals, hurt and angered by Celeste's threats to reveal her secret. But a series of Christmas Eve encounters with other French Quarter outcasts (many played by fellow ensemble members including Lance Baker, Steve Haggard and Natalie West) persuade the pair they're stuck with each other.
Girten and Engstrom go all-outré in their embodiment of the bickering twosome, and director Dado's winningly weird production matches up to their energy. From Grant Sabin's artfully sordid set design, dominated by giant, light-bulbed letters spelling out HOTEL, to the choral performances of the twisted Christmas carols that punctuate Williams's script (several of the actors double as instrumentalists), A Red Orchid's Mutilated is a healthy surprise.
A Red Orchid Theatre. By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Dado. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins; no intermission.