Arts and Entertainment

STANDING ROOM ONLY: Jump into local theater, benefits

It’s been nearly half a century since the late Tennessee Williams received a Pulitzer Prize for his humid, involuted Southern gothic about Big Daddy and his big family on the skids. Lots has changed since 1955, not least of which is the richly decaying royalty of Williams’ chosen milieu. The disintegration and degeneration of the agricultural South’s landed gentry, hinted at in the play, is now complete, and few among us would recognize in real life the imperatives of an extended family whose bigger-than-life patriarch harbors the ambitions of Absalom.

It would seem, in this day and age, that “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” is cursed to a sepia-toned nostalgia to which we with our cell phones, sound bites and 998 cable channels just can’t relate. Indeed, there is something bittersweet and almost quaint in the complex tragedy of Brick and Maggie’s apparently doomed marriage. And yet, it is a testament to the timeless quality of Williams’ writing that this play still manages to raise the little hairs on the back of our necks. Genius doesn’t date. The eternal themes that Tennessee ekes out of his limited terrain — possessive envy, patrimonial infighting, sexual frustration and begrudged inheritance — will remain relevant so long as humanity remains human. The appeal of good drama is to bring such themes to the fore, in order that audiences may witness them unimpeded by the trivial march of mundane matters.

“Plays in the tragic tradition offer us a view of certain moral values in violent juxtaposition,” Williams writes in his essay ‘The Timeless World of a Play.’ “Our hearts are wrung by recognition and pity, so that the dusky shell of the auditorium where we are gathered anonymously together is flooded with an almost liquid warmth of unchecked human sympathies, relieved of self-consciousness, allowed to function...”

One should never pass up the opportunity to have one’s heart wrung by the recognition and pity afforded by a Tennessee Williams play. Anacortes Community Theatre is currently staging “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof,” directed by veteran actress Karen McCallum, every Thursday through Sunday until June 29. Call (360) 293-6829 for tickets and times.

Sado-masochistic dentists, tremendous man-eating plants and ethereal pints of risible nitrous oxide: The folks at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley are calling the new staging of the darkly oddball musical “Little Shop of Horrors” their most ambitious production yet, with a cast of nearly a dozen local thespians having rehearsals for several months now. WICA’s run of this dark musical comedy (directed by Cheryl Petosa) will be a bit shorter, with only three weekends of shows scheduled, starting this Friday and ending the last week in June. For tickets, visit the box office Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m., call 1-800-638-7631 or e-mail

It’s good to have fun; it’s even better when you can help someone while doing it. To wit, a Benefit Concert for the Ken Eppard family is on tap this Friday, 7 p.m., at Kasteel Franssen Restaurant in Oak Harbor. Admission by donation at the door (minimum $5 requested). Call 679-6984 for information or if you have a door prize to donate.

Coupeville Elementary’s Intermediate Art Show opened yesterday, so we missed that, but you can still see the “pop” art designs and prints created by art teacher Kim McWilliams’ 4th and 5th-grade students today and tomorrow. Call 678-4551 for more info.

There are a peacock’s pair of interesting options for music in South Whidbey this Friday, with the opening of The Vortex — a new, teetotalling, non-smoking, DJ-hosted dance venue located in the Bayview Community Hall — kicking off a summer’s worth of Friday night runs, 8 p.m.-12 p.m., admission $5, all ages welcome; or perhaps you’d prefer to see a live performance headlined by Danny Barnes (Banjaxed opens the show) in the Front Room of the Bayview Cash Store. Show starts at 8 p.m.; admission is $6/$3 for kids.

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