BY CLIFF KASDEN
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tennessee Williams’ tormented life gave birth to some of our nation’s greatest dramas. One of his less celebrated projects, the surreal “Camino Real,” is currently onstage at the Walt Whitman Theatre at Brooklyn College.
Director Laura Tesman has very successfully combined a large and talented cast with haunting set design (Angelica Borrero) and irresistibly eerie costumes (Paihsin Shih). The result is a theatrical buffet in which every visual and verbal morsel brings a distinct opportunity for interpretation.
Powerful performances by Drew Morris (Kilroy), Jose Sonero (Gutman) and Vasile Flutur (Casanova) are complemented by equally mesmerizing Stephanie King (Marguerite), Leta Hirschmann-Levy (The Gypsy) and Annabelle Mayock (Esmeralda).
Six decades have passed since the play’s debut. Time and changing attitudes have created opportunities for many new viewpoints as we peel away the layers of plot and individual actor’s presentations.
One view, suggested by the 1950s Cold War era, sees Kilroy as the once formidable United States, now a patsy for the Russians in the form of authoritarian Gutman.
Another view offers “Camino Real” as an absurd purgatory where sins are revealed but freedom from human weakness is less negotiable. Following this logic, Casanova won’t rally his emotions for fear of the unknown. Lord Byron (Jonny Maldonado), on the other hand, is determined to climb to freedom no matter the toll.
Still another view, with even more psychological elements, suggests that the Gypsy and her daughter are clear examples of Freud’s “id” with all its pleasures and pitfalls. If so, then Kilroy, who regains his strength and reasoning, is Freud’s “ego.” The drama’s “streetcleaners” who appear almost supernaturally to collect corpses, are the “super ego” assigned to scour and remove the mind’s flaws.
Whatever road you follow, whether it’s the “Camino Real” (Royal Road) or another less traveled, there are endless opportunities and explanations available to every voyager. The troupe as a whole deserves credit for maximizing the possibilities in this story line. Surely, Tennessee Williams would approve.
Performances run through March 1. The theater is located at 2900 Campus Road in Brooklyn. Call (718)951-4500 or surf to http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/.
More productions will follow in early spring. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.