Tiger Tail and No Place to be Somebody | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Tiger Tail and No Place to be Somebody 

TIGER TAIL and NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY, Stage Actors Ensemble. This troupe has yet to come up with a vehicle or supporting cast worthy of its strong core of actors. Invariably SAE productions feature several stunning performances and more than a few erratic ones in dated plays with rather worn notions of sexuality: to be a woman in one of its productions usually means to get thrown around and sworn at a lot.

Such is the case in David Mason's staging of Tennessee Williams's Tiger Tail. Composed of parts of his Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton, The Unsatisfactory Supper, and Baby Doll (a screenplay written with more than a little help from Elia Kazan), the 1978 opus opened and closed in an instant in Atlanta and has rarely been heard of again. In an uneasy mixture of southern-gothic drama and Moliere sex farce, a goatish old arsonist married to a coquettish 19-year-old virgin loses her to a young, virile Sicilian who, depending on your interpretation, either seduces or rapes her. Williams intended the work to be a "grotesque folk comedy," but the brutal story and inconsistent heroine turn any intended comedy into discomfiting, implausible drama.

Jim Schmid is creepy and pathetic as the lecherous arsonist, and Andrea Squibb, despite a bizarre breathy attempt at a southern dialect, is quirky enough to almost pull off the heroine. But they're aided little by Patrick LoSasso, who never works up the requisite menace and charisma in the role of the Sicilian, and a crew of indifferently cast supporting players.

Haphazard casting has also crippled SAE's previous productions of No Place to Be Somebody, Charles Gordone's alternately leaden and magnificent 1969 Pulitzer-winning drama of small-time hoods on Chicago's south side. But its current incarnation is the most successful yet. Stephan Turner as a cynical bar owner and pimp is still the primary reason to see the show, but newcomer Ric Walker, playing a two-bit playwright and actor, helps SAE veterans Ruby Marita Steele and Kenneth Johnson create a memorably seedy portrait of gangland life. Codirectors Turner and Mason have toned down the weak performances, focusing on Gordone's rough-and-tumble dialogue and machine-gun bursts of poetry instead of his tendency toward B-movie hokum.

--Adam Langer

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