BWW Review: THE GENTLEMAN CALLER is Emotional, Engaging, and Humorously Fun at Slipstream Theatre Initiative!
Sometimes I feel it's a daunting task knowing I'm about to see a show that has a cast of two people (that fear is even larger when it's a one person show!) and it could be a show I love or one I'm not familiar as was the case with The Gentleman Caller - the current production running until March 1st at the Slipstream Theatre Initiative. Yes, everyone in the theatre industry "knows" Tennessee Williams, but other than that piece of information and the fact that I knew the Slipstream Theatre Initiative always puts on innovative and thoughtful pieces of theatre, I had no idea what I was in for. Luckily, I had nothing to fear as there was never a dull moment during the entire show!
Philip Dawkins' two-act memory play, The Gentleman Caller, brings the audience into the early life of Tennessee Williams on the brink of his Glass Menagerie success as he sits down for an interview with a then-reporter-not-yet-playwright, William Inge. Though brief, illicit, and volatile, their relationship finds moments of truth, hope, and incomparable beauty. Despite their immediate and intense connection, their own respective limitation and legitimate danger of their forbidden feelings in 1940s America make their relationship a particularly complicated, frenzied, and at times, violent one.*
Sitting in Slipstream's theatre space is an experience all together, which I felt immediately transported into this world that they were creating of Williams and Inge's relationship. The walls were scrawled with quotes in all types of fonts and feelings to give you the emotional response of their relationship before the show began - an illicit, volatile, yet hopeful and beautiful feeling. You couldn't help but keep looking all around you then the lights went out and the fun began...
Bailey Boudreau entered. I've never imagined what Tennessee Williams would have been like in the 1940s, but now he will forever be burned into my mind with Boudreau's likeness. In this play, Williams breaks the fourth wall and narrates the story to the audience, whereas Inge never does and only speaks to him. Some of these moments were my favorite because it really showed Boudreau's skill and how he effortlessly would make situations work then bounce right back into the scripted dialogue. Boudreau is talented, there is no doubt about that, but he has to be able to entertain when delivering the long monologues that with the wrong actor would normally make you want to zone out, but with Boudreau's conviction it kept you engaged - 110%. He keeps you laughing, engaged, emotional, and knows how to work with a scene partner.
Speaking of scene partners, his other half in the show is Brenton Herwat as William Inge. Sometimes two actors try to outshine one another, other times they work so well together it just makes the show amazing to watch. The Gentleman Caller was definitely the latter. To every boisterous and strong moment that Boudreau's Williams character had, there was an equal unsure and docile Inge that Herwat played. The two actors worked so well together, it was easy to see that each of them knew the man and their identities. I never once questioned their choices because I grew attached to them, which I feel is the best feeling to have at all shows. I was captured as the story progressed wanting to know more about their individual lives that I went home and Googled them.
In my eyes, this was a win for Michigan theatre for three reasons in no particular order. First, a two-person show that was engaging the entire time! Second, a show I discussed on the way home with my best friend who came me and spent time Googling after because it stuck with me. The best ones always stay on your mind! Third, the brilliant acting. Do I need to elaborate? Fourth, okay, I know I said three, but honorary fourth - the awesome theatre walls; they transported you into the world of the play immediately.
The Gentleman Caller is a riveting production that engaged me, had me laughing, and filled me with emotions. You have one weekend left to go see it at the Slipstream Theatre Initiative as the run ends on March 1st and I highly suggest you do! Bravo to a wonderful piece of Michigan theatre!
Trigger Warning: This show contains depictions of sexual violence, consensual sexual activities, graphic language, and discussions of self-harm and suicide.*
The Gentleman Caller runs until March 1st at the Slipstream Theatre Initiative in Ferndale. For more information and tickets, visit www.slipstreamti.com.
*Summary and trigger warning courtesy of Slipstream Theatre Initiative