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Black Box Theatre: Suddenly Last Summer

Sophocles once wrote: "Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all." Violet Venable, the overly cloying and very affluent mother of the absent protagonist in Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer would have done well to heed that ancient wisdom.

One of Williams’ most controversial works, Lora Adams of The Black Box Theatre has laid bare the seamy secret best left buried and exposed it in such a way as to make you squirm in your seat.

The action takes place in the New Orleans garden of the aforementioned absent protagonist, Sebastian Venable, where Violet weaves a wicked web of pseudo-altruism with the intention of persuading the naïve Dr. Cukorwitz to perform his relatively new procedure of a lobotomy to silence her niece, Catharine, who Violet vociferously contends is spreading a false narrative about the sordid circumstances surrounding Sebastian’s mysterious death the previous summer. Catharine has been committed to a psychiatric facility ever since Sebastian’s demise.

Violet is desperate to preserve her son’s reputation. Further complicating the dysfunctional family dynamics is that Violet has taken steps to keep Sebastian’s will tied up in probate court to prevent very generous bequests to pass on to Catharine as well as her mother and brother.

In order to determine what really happened, Dr. Cukorwitz injects Catharine with a “truth serum,” of sorts, after which the whole debased story unfolds, shocking the entire family as well as the doctor and sending Violet into an uncontrollable rage. Interestingly, the conclusion of the action is purposely left ambiguous forcing the audience to speculate on an ending.

Taking on the part of Violet is prolific Quad Cities actor, Patti Flahrety and she is at her evil and sinister best in this role. As Dr. Cukorwitz is Matthew Walsh who provides the perfect equanimity that counterbalances the vicious assertions from Violet. The deeply disturbed Catharine is portrayed by Noel Jean Huntley who achingly elicits sympathy for the atrocity she has witnessed. Strong supporting performances in the roles of Catharine’s mother and brother are brought in by the talented Ann Graftt and James Becker.

Equally impressive here is the very lush and impressive garden set which is almost as smothering as the mawkish Violet. While not the typical Halloween fare, this is the perfect show for Halloween…you will be horrified.

Suddenly Last Summer continues at The Black Box Theatre, 1623 5th Avenue in Moline, Thursday through Saturday, October 26 through 28 at 7:30 p.m.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.