Review: MainStage Irving-Las Colinas presents “The Night of the Iguana”

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  • Shawn Stalter, Contributing Critic - Dallas/Ft. Worth

The talented cast of MainStage Irving-Las Colinas skillfully navigated the complex emotional terrain of Tennessee Williams’ classic play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Based on a short story which was later expanded into a full-scale play, “The Night of the Iguana” offers an evocative journey through the rabid mind of the former priest, Reverend Lawrence Shannon. After enduring expulsion from a Virginia-based ministry over his sexual misconduct and blasphemy, Rev. Shannon flees to the west coast of Mexico to serve as a tour guide.

Caught taking advantage of a teenage member on his tour, Rev. Shannon attempts to sidestep the consequences of his actions by stranding the group at an isolated seaside hotel owned by his recently-widowed friend, the lusty Maxine Falk. When traveling sketch artist, Hannah Jelkes, and her poet grandfather, Nonno, arrive at the hotel, their interactions with Rev. Shannon force him into a confrontation with reality and his inner demons.

The cast tackled the complex themes explored in this play. Through compelling dialogue and emotional range, they demonstrated the inner motivations, fears and shadows haunting each character in this twisted tale. Together, the cast held nothing back in their exploration of sexual desire, emotional repression and the flawed nature of humanity while struggling to discern deeper meaning from life.

Walt Threlkeld lit up the stage with his passionate portrayal of the erratic and unstable Rev. Shannon. On his face, the audience saw deep pain and torment as he railed against God’s alleged indifference to his creation. He also capably weaved together the complexities of the reverend, taking the audience on a turbulent, emotional journey. Meanwhile, Clayton Cunningham, Kimberly Smith, Rian Slay and Mitchell Doerr’s portrayal of the frolicking German family, Fahrenkopf, provided the necessary comic relief to balance the play’s weighty themes.

Evelyn Davis’ artful embodiment of the quiet dignity and confidence of the serene traveling sketch artist, Hannah Jelkes, was quite enjoyable. Her calm, often subdued, and increasingly affectless demeanor gave a welcome counterbalance to Rev. Shannon’s rising storm of emotions. Additionally, Jackie Kemp as her grandfather, the poet Nonno, delivered a genuinely standout performance. He cleverly crafted a space on the stage, giving the audience nuanced glimpses of a brilliant poetic mind slowly drifting away on the deep seas of time and dementia. Contrasting his deep, innocent and gentle nature with the frothy ranting and raving of Rev. Shannon, allows the audience to further grasp the diverse range of emotions represented on this stage. Given the heartwarmingly engaging interactions between Davis and Kemp, I do wish the audience was afforded a bit more time to digest the final emotions evoked before curtain call.

Overall, MainStage Irving-Las Colinas put on a lively and passionate performance that DFW theatergoers, especially fans of Tennessee Williams’ work, should not miss.

“The Night of the Iguana” produced by MainStage Irving-Las Colinas is directed by Rose Anne Holman and runs through March 30th. This production’s talented cast stars Walt Threlkeld as “Reverend Larry Shannon,” Sherri Small as “Maxine Faulk,” Laurel Collins as “Ms. Judith Fellows,” Evelyn Davis as “Hannah Jelks,” Jackie Kemp as “Nonno,” Marisa Duran as “Charlotte Goodall,” Kris Yunc as “Pancho,” Pælor Cuihn as “Hank”, Stephan Roberts as “Jake Latta,” Mitchell Doerr as “Wolfgang,” Kami Rogers as “Hilda,” Kimberly Smith as “Frau Fahrenkopf,” and Clayton Cunningham as “Herr Fahrenkopf.”

Reserve your seat for an upcoming performance of “The Night of the Iguana” by checking out www.tickets.irvingartscenter.com/online, calling 972.252.2787 or by visiting the Irving Arts Center Box Office.

Photo credit: Kris Ikejiri