The main characters in Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” call themselves — and each other — monsters.
“When monster meets monster, one monster has to give way, and it will never be me!” proclaims the aging, drug- and sex-addled film actress Alexandra Del Lago. Her young lover, gigolo and traveling companion of the moment, Chance Wayne, is not quite so ready to call himself a monster, but he finally seems to regard himself as such by the time he pulls the curtain shut in the play’s last moment.
They’re not monsters, of course. Like other characters created by Williams, they’re flawed human beings haunted by their past choices, desperately clinging to the hope that they still achieve their dreams.
And they come across as vividly human in director David Cromer’s production of “Sweet Bird of Youth” at the Goodman Theatre. As the faded Alexandra, Hollywood star Diane Lane (who’s not so faded in real life) captures the conflict at the heart of her troubled character — she’s self-aggrandizing and self-abasing at the same time. As the muscular Chance, Broadway star Finn Wittrock oozes charm and ambition, while at the same time showing his character’s almost blind sense of determination.
Lane and Wittrock are surrounded by a top-notch cast of supporting actors (especially John Judd, Colm O’Reilly and Penny Slusher) playing the characters in a small Gulf Coast town, where Chance foolishly hopes to win his old girlfriend — despite the fact that everyone wants to run him out of town. Designed by James Schuette, the set towers over these little people with its curving contours and billowing curtains, giving a grand, eternal scale to the tragic events that unfold.
“Sweet Bird of Youth” continues through October 28 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Call 312-443-3800 or visit www.goodmantheatre.org for tickets and schedule.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren