By Samantha Fleishman ’20
In Skidmore Theater’s first Studio Lab of the semester, Director/Lighting Designer Erica Schnitzer ’18 artfully combined two short plays by Tennessee Williams: This Property is Condemned and Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen. The result was a powerful, emotional landscape in which two parallel worlds could coexist; the audience is presented with childhood/adolescence in a small railroad town in Mississippi as well as young adulthood in Manhattan.
I am standing in a room where a woman sits and a man sleeps. A record continues to spin around the needle of an old victrola, even though the song is over. Two flies move around the ceiling space and one lands on the man’s back. The woman’s eyes are coated, as if tears welled up but then froze in place. The man lies on the bed motionless. The flies are still. The only movement is the lapping of water back and forth in the glass the woman holds above the tabletop in her left hand.
She looks trapped within the casing of a statue. Her hovering hand begins to shake. Part of her fights to be still while the other part fights to be freed. As she trembles, and appears to wither slightly, I fear the glass will fall.
The corner of her lip quivers. It has begun.
The woman, now with strength enough to stand, must wake the man. The man lets the woman dress him, perhaps because he wants her to feel useful or perhaps because he is incapable of dressing himself. Though the man is stiff and tired, his eyes do not leave her.
Together they strip the bed, rearrange furniture, and shift their belongings as though they have done so hundreds of times before. Then, as if she suddenly wants to escape the small bedroom, she steps atop a chair. From her new heightened vantage point, she is young again.
Now, a girl is wobbling along a train track like a tight rope, suspended above a reality she cannot see. The girl’s mental instability is echoed in her balancing act. Her mind is wild and the boy kindly listens. His lips move as she speaks, as if his own mouth is reflecting her words. The boy’s limbs are loose, and a fallen voice comes out of his young body.
The girl tells him stories and odd facts to demonstrate her mental capability. He stops her when she speaks of a corsage. The boy cannot comprehend the word; “…flowers to pin on your dress at a formal affair,” the girl recites like a memorized vocabulary word.
He grins a little and his mouth twitches–a child readying himself to speak. She sings to him and the light casts a vertical line across the side of his face. She sings to the room and to the wind:
“You’re the only star in my blue heaven
And you’re shining just for me”
The spotlights surrounding them are outlined in blue. In certain moments, the thin, blue lines divide each actor in two, separating reality from fantasy and leaving their heads aloft in blue, heavenly clouds.
The singing stops.
She pauses to look in the window behind them, the evening darkness produces a mirror in the window frame. The girl looks at her image. The girl’s profile differs from the mirror’s image; her self-perception is opposite from how the boy perceives her.
With glazed marble eyes, she says she wants to go away and fly on faint winds. Once away from the window, she loses sight of her distorted reflection.
She cries, the rain melts, and the music fades.
The ending is immediately familiar: the expected canon. Maybe we are meant to know that it is nearly over. A record spins around the needle once again and the couple returns to adulthood.
The man takes her hand and he takes her glass of water. He sets it on the table and the rain laps again. She lays on the bed peacefully still, listening. He looks at her now empty chair; the woman’s mental absence saddens the man.
Is she sleeping or has she gone away?
Director/Lighting Designer: Erica Schnitzer ’18
Stage Manager:Emily Forer ’20
Sound Designer: August Sylvester ’20
Cast: Coco McNeil ’21 (Willie), Alec Sill ’20 (Tom)
Samantha Fleishman is a Sophomore and a staff-writer for STLN