Camino Real by Girl Friday Productions, performing at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage

Sally Ann Wright, Craig Johnson, Laurel Armstrong, Sara Richardson, John Middleton, Eric Knutson and James Rodriguez in Camino Real.  Photo by Richard Fleischman.

Sally Ann Wright, Craig Johnson, Laurel Armstrong, Sara Richardson, John Middleton, Eric Knutson and James Rodriguez in Camino Real. Photo by Richard Fleischman.

“I have three problems,” asserts Camino Real‘s Kilroy, in a lush and exuberant performance by Eric Knutson.  “I’m hungry, I’m lonely, and I don’t know what this place is.”

Camino Real (Girl Friday Productions, performing at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, through July 27), a play in 15 “blocks,” will make you experience the immense truth of this.  Tennessee Williams‘s dreamplay is set in the main square of a nameless city in a nameless South American country.  In an endless night.  Characters are trapped, simultaneously terrified and enervated, waiting for a dawn that will never come, spinning fictional memories, reaching out to each other but never able to fully connect.  The play lacks a clear plot – and thus may not be for everyone – but really, who cares.  Williams’s ravishing language and torn-from-the-dark-night-of-the-soul theatrics never bore.  Indeed, this is a production you might very well wish to revisit.

Girl Friday delivers a bang-up production.  Camino Real could very easily become flaccid and aimless, but intelligent director/set designer Benjamin McGovern does not permit this.  His production moves briskly, the action on or in front of a long platform slashing across the Theatre Garage stage.  Excellent design work is provided by costumer Kathy Kohl, lighter Karin Olson and (especially) by sound designer Katharine Horowitz.

And the acting, wow.  I don’t have room here to praise everyone, but Knutson as Kilroy (the lead, if a play like this could be said to have a lead) furnishes a splash of rich energy as does Alan Sorenson, albeit in a droll and underplayed way, as Gutman.  John Middleton mesmerizes as Casanova, terrified of the letter in his pocket.  David Beukema is a hoot and then some as the fey Baron de Charlus (“My suit is yellow, my nationality French and my normality open to question.”)  A growing and devoted cult will be pleased to hear that Craig Johnson is in this play, as Don Quixote; he is terrific.  The Richardsons, Sara and Kimberly (no relation), are wonderful.  Kimberly’s hyper Rosita and Sara’s creepily sweet Esmeralda: “Men are always sincere when they lift your veil.”  As Camille, Kirby Bennett‘s scene with Kilroy is a high point: desperate, defensive, hysterical, dazzling.

Camino Real is coming into its own.  It’s not an easy play.  The cast is huge.  Critical reaction to the 1953 production was yowlingly negative, but revivals have been coming regularly – on Broadway, at Williamstown, the Goodman, Hartford Stage.  The play is beginning to acquire real momentum; hopefully this will continue.  It’s a masterwork and deserves a wider audience.

Girl Friday produces theater irregularly; their last show was in 2011, a terrific mounting of the seldom-produced classic Street Scene.  Let’s hope it will be less than two years before they give us something else; this is an outstanding company.

Recommended.

For more information about John Olive, please visit his website.

 

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