A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one of Tennessee Williams’ lesser-known, yet brilliant, plays. Set in 1930s St Louis, the play follows the wispy and love swept Dorothea (Laura Rogers) as she eagerly awaits a phone call from her lover, the elusive Ralph Ellis.
The revival of this classic comedy highlights how relevant it remains even almost forty years after it premiered. A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, as many of Williams’ plays do, illustrates the themes of class divide, the role and ambitions of women, betrayal and isolation.
The production runs at just under two hours but due to the brilliant energy of the company the play never drags. We are first introduced to Dorothea on a Sunday morning in early June. She is attempting her pilates/hip swivel exercises as her earthy German flatmate Bodey (Debbie Chazen) excitedly prepares for the picnic at Creve Coeur. Rogers is a youthful and likeable Dorothea whom the audience both laughs at and pities in equal measure. Her airy nature is contrasted nicely by the practical down-to-earth nature of Bodey – who attempts to set Dorothea up with her twin brother Buddy (who has cut down to a mere eight beers per day).
The arrival of Helena, Dorothea’s upper-class colleague, brings an added dimension to the play, highlighting the class divide in living conditions. Fotini Dimou’s set further brings out the claustrophobia and heightens the tension. The design is most notable for its mix of colours – the rose wallpaper and the amalgamation of other colours catch the eye.
The performances are highly enjoyable. Hermione Gulliford is a witty and haughty Helena and her pointed remarks greatly contrasts with the subdued Miss Gluck (Julia Watson). The cast have expert timing and there are laugh out loud moments of humour – for example when Helena assists Dorothea taking her pills.
Despite the high farce moments, there are also moments of nuanced sadness and emptiness, for example when, in a monologue, Helena reflects that she would rather eat alone than with a person from a lower class, stressing the loneliness that strict class boundaries can enforce on all of us. This is also shadowed in Miss Gluck’s reluctance to return home as she says in Germany she is alone without a friend in the world. The momentum which keeps the play afloat seems to be the fear of becoming Miss Gluck. In the final moments of the play, Dorothea is forced to choose whether to go to the picnic – to meet Buddy – or stay at home. The significance of that decision echoes throughout the rest of the play.
A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is playing at the Print Room at the Coronet until October 7.
Photo: Catherine Ashmore