Eclectic and brutal are terms that hardly begin to describe the bizarre co-dependency between Trinket Dugan (Mink Stole), a Texas oil heiress and cancer survivor; and her buxom buddy Celeste Delacroix Griffin (Penny Arcade). The pair are two of Tennessee Williams’ most tragically hilarious characters, and are perfectly portrayed by these two captivating avant-garde performers. They yield not only brilliant physical comedy befitting this farce, but seamlessly bounce Williams’ potent barbs off one another to a level that falls somewhere between rival sisters and scorned lovers.
The Mutilated takes place on Christmas Eve in New Orleans in the late 1940s, with freeloader Celeste in relentless pursuit of a free ride from woefully lonely Trinket. From her hideaway at the Silver Dollar Hotel, Trinket does her best to overlook her former friend’s slander, as well as her threats to reveal the deep secret that has moored her in perpetual vulnerability. Alas, through comedic animosity, Celeste does eventually needle her way back into Trinket’s life—or at least her psyche—with the aid of a few French-Quarter pawns.
Originally staged on Broadway in 1966, The Mutilated was met with disappointing reviews that questioned whether or not Williams’ writing prowess had evaporated since the success of A Streetcar Named Desire and other hits. This many decades later, however, the play is not only entertaining, but a contemporary approach helps maximize its personality in several ways. Thanks to Jesse Selengut and his Tin Pan jazz trio, original live music ups that salty Bourbon Street vibe and draws in the audience as if we were caught smack in the middle of the Trinket-Celeste rivalry.
Director Cosmin Chivu also outfitted an authentic setting evoking broke-down fleabags and worn-out saloons in the seediest corners of town. Better still, he employs a chorus of “Quarter rats”—hookers, sailors, con men, drunks, and other perfectly costumed characters who embellish the atmosphere and lend beautiful voices to Selengut’s catchy numbers.
Though only one character in this compact, 90-minute play is repeatedly teased as being “mutilated,” there’s no telling who among them has the most violated soul.
“The Mutilated” (sohothinktank.org/themutilated.htm), a comedy by Tennessee Williams, runs through December 1 at the New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street (between Washington and Greenwich Streets). Tickets $35.