THEATER REVIEW: Clothes for a Summer Hotel

(L-R): Rod Sweitzer as Ernest Hemingway and Peter J. Crosby as F. Scott Fitzgerald

The White Horse Theater Company is currently performing a rare revival of Clothes for a Summer Hotel through February 21st at The Hudson Guild Theater, a nightmarish work by Tennessee Williams which is akin to a self portrait in hell. The play was the last to be staged in New York during the playwright’s lifetime, closing after fourteen performances despite Oscar winner Geraldine Page and the modern incarnation gives some insight as to why.

The story follows the ghosts of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald outside the gates of the sanatorium where she perished in a fire and through flashbacks it recalls their marriage together complete with its friction, infidelity, and resentment. At its heart the play seems to have everything that one might ask for, however the writing just doesn’t deliver as Williams uses the Fitzgeralds to explore his own paralleled falling out with the public, alcoholism, and mentally fragile sister but loses some of his own voice along the way. There are worthy moments, especially Scott’s interaction with friend and competitor Ernest Hemingway but the ethereal nature of the play and its cast of the deceased are just too scattered.

The performances in this staging are not at fault for its lack of resonance. In fact, Kristen Vaughan and Mary Goggin are entrancing as Zelda and Mrs. Campbell, but the set appeared to be something one might expect at a low income middle school. The experience is like sitting down with a group of dead alcoholics in an unending group therapy session or as we call it in my family, Christmas.

Tim Needles

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