To act, to really become someone else for a moment, requires concentration and observation. To become someone remote from our environment as Two Rivers County, Deep South, USA, requires exceptional insight. To grasp a pagan theology and portray it convincingly requires a dedication and personal magnetism seldom found in young students.
"Orpheus Descending" requires all of this, for it is both an American social tragedy and a deeply personal story with antecedents in the Greek school of man's fallibility.
The effectiveness of the performance under George Archambeault's direction is in its believable portrayal of social ugliness. The sluts were slutty, the intolerant ones were intolerant, the repulsive were repulsive, the unfeeling nurse was cold and proper and the old maids were suitably waspish. All the minor characters contributed to this atmosphere.
But the fate of the positive characters, Val, Vee, Lady and Carol, another theme revolved. It asks questions about human nature that the youthful actors cannot answer. The women have a credible humanity about them. But the character of the vagabond Valenine Xavier must be that of a good without immortality, and the cast could not project that image. He raised eyebrows, just by saying he was 30 years old and had been through it all.
Carol Cutrere's final speech is an oration, the kind of thing Williams avoids otherwise. Only in the context of a surrealist Greek tragedy is it believable. The final death scene-from which many details were cut-is so brief that the death of Val and Lady seems to have no more significance than an old monkey dropping dead-an odd conclusion to a drama pitting lie against death.
Gary Shortall's guitar composition and playing added to the mood of undefined conflict.
All in all, the cast, Mr. Archambeault and Mr. George Stoughton are to be congratulated or a good performance of a dificult play. Mr. Archambeault, Mr. George Stoughton and the cast deserve praise or a job well done.