Death, mental instability and mystery will be presented in the Tennessee Williams play “Suddenly Last Summer.” The play looks at a woman who has been placed in an insane asylum after her cousin’s mysterious death.
“The play is a mystery of what happened to a young man one summer and how he died,” Daryl Phillipy, director and assistant professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, said. “The story is trying to find out the real truth of how it happened. There are a lot of dark themes in the play about what’s truth and what’s lies.”
The play deals with the darker side of human nature and looks at the effects that part of human nature has on others.
“There’s a lot of greed and a lot of deceit,” Phillipy said. “Those are thoughts and ideas that are prevalent in the play that we wanted to make sure to explore, not only as ideas, but to see them come to life through the action in the play.”
Williams, who also wrote the well-known play “The Glass Menagerie,” is known for exploring taboo subjects using dark themes.
“Tennessee Williams is one of the most influential playwrights of the American theater of at least the last 70 years,” Phillipy said. “Much of what he was writing about in the mid-20th century – the types of characters, his themes – were landmarks for the time in which they were being written. A lot of the subject matter is still taboo today. In fact, this specific play probably deals with some of the most taboo topics of society. It’s a horror story in a lot of ways.”
Phillipy said he has experienced several challenges in directing the play.
“This is only my second semester here,” Phillipy said. “Working with a new production team, working with actors I’ve never had much opportunity to work with – it’s all been a period of adjustment for me.”
However there have also been many challenges in the script itself.
“The language is very poetic in nature, not that it’s written in verse, but the language is filled with imagery and metaphor,” Phillipy said. “It forces the audience to really listen to the words. We’ve had to really focus on allowing the language to have its full impact and making sure the actors deliver that full impact, as well as keeping the intensity of the show.”
Taylor Davis, freshman from Owensboro, Ky., plays Sister Felicity, a nun working in the asylum.
“Sister Felicity works up close with the main character, Catherine, who the story is focused around,” Davis said. “Catherine’s aunt has put her in St. Mary’s private asylum because she went away over the summer with her cousin Sebastian and while they were away, Sebastian mysteriously died, so they’re trying to get the story out of Catherine.”
Davis prepared for her role by getting to understand her character’s part in the story and running lines with Madison Humes, who plays Catherine.
“Most of my lines are in scenes with Catherine, so we ran those lines a lot,” Davis said. “We spent a lot of time talking about how Catherine has been affected by St. Mary’s and what my role in her life has been since she’s come back from vacation.”
Davis hopes the audience will take away the power of the truth and how it can affect a person’s perception of another.
“I hope the audience is shocked, but I hope they take away that crazy things can happen and you don’t always know the full story,” Davis said. “You need to hear the full story before you can make assumptions about what a person is capable of.”
Phillipy, also hopes the audience takes something away from the performance.
“I hope the audience gets a love for Tennessee Williams,” Phillipy said. “I also hope they come away with a sense of the really outstanding acting that we have at Murray State. I hope the unified theatrical event will be something that will make people say ‘we have a really nice theater department,’ and I hope it encourages them to get involved with theater and make it part of their college experience.”
“Suddenly Last Summer” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today through Tuesday in Wilson Hall 310 B.
General admission tickets are $8 and faculty and staff tickets are $6.
Students get in free with their Racercard.