Triad Stage's production of Tennessee Williams' little-seen Kingdom of Earth is the perfect place to start. While not as well known as Williams' more iconic plays like A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Kingdom of Earth is nevertheless a vivid and nuanced work. Triad's production, which was directed by theatre co-founder Preston Lane, is filled with the gritty essence of Williams' hard boiled southern language, from the sweet smell of bacon and tobacco that occasionally wafts through the theater to the evocative set design by Anya Klepikov.
|Ryah Nixon, Philippe Bowgen and Clayton Fox. Photo by VanderVeen Photographers.|
It is a marriage of convenience, we discover, a contract forged in order to insure that Lot's half brother, Chicken (Philippe Bowgen), will not inherit the house. Chicken is quite literally the black sheep of his family, whose partial African American ancestry has caused him to be an outcast among the genteel southern society. As the rains fall and the flood waters rise, tempers will flare, secrets will be revealed, and the last gasp of an old family's fierce traditions will be played out among these three lost souls, who may as well be the last people in this kingdom of Earth.
|Me and my girlfriend, Anna, converse with Cardboard Williams after "Kingdom of Earth."|
Tennessee Williams has long been a favorite of Triad Stage, which opened in 2002 with a performance of Williams' Suddenly Last Summer. Since then, Triad has mounted 4 more productions of Williams' plays, including Kingdom of Earth, which remains one of his more obscure works. It's surprising given its intensity - Williams pulls out all the stops here, delivering an entertaining ride that is hard to shake. To celebrate Williams' return, Triad has placed a cardboard figure of the famed playwright in its lobby (pictured above), encouraging patrons to have their pictures taken with it, and to post them on Twitter with the hashtag #cardboardwilliams. It's a clever promotion showcasing Triad's continued dedication to the spirit of the South, and its most revered playwright. In Kingdom of Earth, they deliver a refined mint julep of a production with a decidedly sharp twist.
Kingdom of Earth runs through Sunday, March 3, at Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC. For more information, visit www.triadstage.org. Student rush tickets are available for $10.