‘Tennessee’s Treasures’ conveys deep emotion, discusses dark subjects

Photo Courtesy of Nadijah Campbell

Performers at UM’s Jerry Herman Ring Theatre beautifully recreated scenes of anguish and despair in the play series “Tennessee’s Treasures.” Four short stories written by Tennessee Williams between 1944 and 1958 were spotlighted.

The first, “Auto-da-Fe,” follows Eloi (Alex Michell) who is an asthmatic boy struggling to reveal his sexual identity to his old-fashioned mother. He speaks of a burning that his mother is unable to decipher and eventually the burning, which is his desire to be free, turns literal after he locks himself in the house and burns it down.

In a very smooth transition, the next play, “27 Wagons Full of Cotton,” begins with a plantation burning down and Jake (Bennett Leeds) forcing his wife Flora (Hollis Williams) to admit that he didn’t cause the fire on the plantation. The problem truly emerges when he chokes and twists her wrists until she says what he wants. Instead of being frightened, she turns it into a sexual game, eventually leading to her to be taken advantage of by another character later on.

Following the sexually intense scene, the next play, “Hello from Bertha,” focuses on Bertha, (Broghan Phelan) a lady in a whorehouse who is dying from a disease and longing to speak to a man from her past. Out of the four plays, this one was lacking a real climax.

Lastly, to add to the theme of sex, audiences had the chance to peek into the life two women, Flora (Shannon Booth) and Bessie (Ellie Goldenberg), who desperately want to find love in “A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot.”

Although there was a lot of repetition, such as constant crying, it oddly enough never became boring. What’s more to desire than sex, death and mental stimulation?

One of the only downsides to the plays was that the scenes, despite being captivating, were drawn out. After a few moments of crying and crying, especially in “Hello from Bertha,” it became irritating.

The scenes also never revealed the problems the characters were facing, leaving the audience to rely solely on their own educated inferences. The plays dealt with heavy topics that could have been expanded upon to generate more conversation. This elusiveness may backfire and cause viewers to become afraid to talk out of fear that they may have gotten the wrong message.

Although the scenes were ambiguous, the actors who wore their hearts on their sleeves made it highly relatable. Every actor deserves multiple rounds of applause for the realness that they displayed. They were able to pull at heart strings and leave the audience with a horrible feeling of hopelessness – which was a good thing.  Because of the actors, each scene made it impossible to not put yourself in the suffering characters’ shoes.

All in all, a great selection of plays were chosen and the short 30-minute scenes made it great for people who enjoy shorter performances. The actors did an amazing job, although the crying was severely drawn out. “Tennessee’s Treasures” is not recommended for the heavy hearted as the stories are extremely dark. But, for those capable of letting a little sadness into their lives, it is a play to see.

Rating: 4/5 stars

If You Go:

When: Until Oct. 3

Where: Ring Theatre

Tickets: Show times and tickets can be found at as.miami.edu/ringtheatre.