First produced in 1981, "Something Cloudy, Something Clear" is a late Tennessee Williams play with an intriguing structure that finds Williams looking back to Provincetown in 1940, his first great love -- with a young dancer named Kip -- and a decision over whether to compromise his work in order to get it produced.
Kip -- famous from Williams' "Memoirs" account of the beautiful boy who willingly fell into bed and love with the young playwright, until a girl warned that Tennessee was turning him gay -- is told with humor, warmth and sadness in the book, but the play goes on at great length over their first tentative coupling, making Kip's "Will he or won't he?" a protracted tease.
However, in the immaculate production director Luis Q. Barroso and DRAMA! are giving the play, it emerges as a lovely mood piece, set to the music by Ravel that the playwright specifies, with comedic and melodramatic bits to enliven the action.
The set is the best yet seen at the Cowpokes' Barn Theater Space. Designed by Jim Word, it is a small stretch of beach with an angled shack open to the audience on two sides, the wooden foundation of what was another structure, a pier-like walkway, bits of greenery; it's all set against a backdrop of azure blue. When the front lights are doused and the blue light comes through the slats of the shack, the effect is beautiful.
Michael Chase Creasy, who played another Williams self-portrait in DRAMA's first production, "The Traveling Companion," ably embodies August, the playwright existing in two time periods simultaneously.
Kip is a dichotomy: ostensibly a complete innocent, yet looking for someone to keep him. It helps that he is played with refreshing naturalness by young Kenneth Thompson. Kip's wiser, protective, pretend sister, Clare, is vividly enacted by Megan Sauzer Harms. Both only too aware of their own mortality, they cling to each other like babes in the woods, knowing there are wolves about.
Joan Blum plays two actresses, one a saucy, savvy creature, the other a rip-roaring Tallulah Bankhead who begins the second act by storming through the audience to encounter August in a chair with its back to us, and only his hand visible. This scene exists outside of time and space, since it encompasses much of Williams' relationship with the actress, including her controversial interpretations of his heroines to her last, dying words: "Bourbon! Codeine!"
Mark Burton and Marinda Woodruff are the venal producers, Carlos Gonzalez a snaky hood right out of the movies and Jason Little an unsavory merchant seaman.
Anthony Favre's lighting works wonders with few instruments, and Cecile Casey Covert's costume coordination is right on the money. This isn't a very good play, but its director, actors and designers manage to cast a kind of spell with it.
SOMETHING CLOUDY, SOMETHING CLEAR
What: Tennessee Williams' play, produced by DRAMA! and directed by Luis Q. Barroso.
Where: Cowpokes' Barn Theater Space, 1030 Marigny (at the corner of St. Claude Avenue).
When: Performances Fri-Sat at 8 p.m. and Sun at 3 through April 4. April 3 performance at 5 p.m.
Tickets: $15 at the door; $12 in advance; $7 students with valid ID. Call 948-9924.
Michael Chase Creasy, center, is a Tennessee-like playwright remembering the summer of 1940, when he became involved with a young dancer, played by Kenneth Thompson, and Megan Sauzer Harms, as the girl who claims to be the boy's sister.