Suddenly Last Summer | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Suddenly Last Summer 

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The central figure in Tennessee Williams's 1958 one-act--Sebastian Venable, poet, aesthete, sexual predator, and martyr--never appears onstage. Instead the audience hears about him from two women haunted by his mysterious death. His elderly mother, Violet, seeks to protect Sebastian's chaste image by discrediting the ghastly account of his demise supplied by his cousin Catharine, now in a mental hospital; if Violet has her way, Catharine's memories will be erased by a lobotomy. (The play was inspired in part by Williams's guilt over verbally attacking his sister--herself later lobotomized--after she'd tattled about his wild parties.) Set in 1930s New Orleans, this southern gothic tale, with its suggestions of murder and cannibalism, demands actors in complete command of Williams's feverish, image-packed, symbol-laden language. In Shattered Globe Theatre Company's fine revival, the storytelling of Allison Batty as Catharine and Linda Reiter as Violet is both terrifying and exhilarating. The hothouse atmosphere is enhanced by director-designer Kevin Hagan's setting--the jungly patio of Violet's mansion--and Mike Tutaj's sound design, with its thumping drums and screeching bird cries. a Through 10/27: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000, $27-$35. --Albert Williams

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