Confessional | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Confessional, Stage Actors Ensemble, at the Performance Loft. The setting of this late Tennessee Williams play is a shabby seaside tavern in southern California--a kind of final frontier. One by one the people who frequent this establishment break from their customary discourse to address us directly; a motley crew, they're connected by their solitariness, transience, and curiously resilient optimism.

Poetry allows its speakers to dispense with the mechanics of concealment and revelation traditional in dramatic dialogue. And under the direction of Stephan Turner, this cast gets right to the heart of the matter, rejecting facile stereotypes to root their finely etched, articulately phrased portrayals in compassionate empathy. Amazingly, they make this prototype for the 1972 Small Craft Warnings better integrated conceptually and ultimately more satisfying than the later play.

The multiethnic Stage Actors Ensemble cast accurately reflects Williams's cosmopolitan milieu. Bert Matias as a whiskey-sodden doctor and Fred Slate as a laborer resigned to his station are both avuncular presences. Carolyn Bowyer as a faded belle and Michelle X. Taylor as a trailer-dwelling beautician are sometimes weighed down by their mannerisms, but these are flaws amply redeemed by two cliche-free portraits: Jeremy Trager as a jaded cruiser and Kelsey D. Minor as his inexperienced pickup.

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