Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real is likely one of his least produced plays ever. The reasons for this include an abstract confusion, difficult length of the play, and the obtuse speeches that put Shakespeare soliloquys to shame. However, the BFA junior class managed to find some semblance of success amidst the numerous difficulties associated with the script. With excellent technical design and some standout performances, Camino Real achieved what so many plays produced fail to do: convey a universal message to the audience. It told a story about the fear of aging and the brief flash in the pan that is human existence.
These themes are evident most distinctly shown in the character Casanova. The aging romantic stays at the Siete Mares hotel while his funds rapidly evaporate, leaving him to wallow in the shame of being past his prime both physically and financially. His lover, the French Marguerite (from Lady of the Camellias), pays his for his stay in the hotel, but wants nothing more than to escape. It is this relationship that defines the play. While Lord Byron comes into monologue and Kilroy experiences a fall from grace, these scenes serve to further the subplot or emphasize other important themes. As the cast desperately try to escape the fantastical Camino Real, the growing feelings of discomfort burst into a moment of Anarchist pride (which warmed my little heart).
The Camino Real, pronounced in an anglicized manner, serves more to represent purgatory. This is incredibly evident when characters observe constellations not visible from anywhere in the Northern hemisphere (i.e. Mexico or the USA). The set design in the smaller McClintock theater was excellent; a balcony gave the scheming Gutman a perch to observe the events in the town square, and the signage around cleverly used graffiti to communicate the passage of time. The stand out aspect of design, though, was the sound. Music was excellently interwoven into the story, and the ominous sound of the street cleaners put the audience on the edge of their seats. These elements blended together to effectively build a playground where actors could make exciting choices.
Camino Real was by no means perfect—an awkward run time with two intermissions and a Kilroy who was ever unmoved throughout the play certainly detracted—but it was the first success of the spring season. With some especially strong performances by the actors, we can certainly hope for more good art in their final year.
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