A House Not Meant to Stand at Fountain Theatre

A House Not Meant to Stand, continues the themes that made Williams one of the most prolific of the Southern writers. Subtitled “A Gothic Comedy,” the West Coast premiere of Williams’ last full-length play is full of real-life counterparts in the characters of Cornelius, Bella, and Charlie McCorkle.

Director Simon Levy deftly navigates the many layers of this final effort of the great playwright to exorcise those ghosts. The result is not one of his best plays, but it holds up as an ambitious project for a writer who was looking to remain relevant in changing times.

Set Designer Jeff McLaughlin’s gothic setting is a decaying house with tattered and faded wallpaper exposing crumbling walls. Water drips from the ceiling in various places. This is the playground and a metaphor for a decaying society in which these characters play out their despairs. A storm rages outside.

Inside the dilapidated house, Cornelius (Alan Blumenfeld) and Bella (Sandy Martin) have just returned from their eldest son’s funeral to find that their remaining son, Charlie (Daniel Billet) upstairs with a woman – pregnant and born again Stacey (Virginia Newcomb.) Their daughter has been institutionalized and it is clear that Cornelius has caused all of his children to flee that home. In the meantime, he tries to get Bella, suffering from dementia, to reveal the location of a considerable amount of confederate money she inherited from her grandfather’s moonshine business so that he can continue his bid for political office.

As the night progresses, themes of sexuality, insanity, and time rage on as his horny neighbors Jessie (Lisa Richards) and Emerson (Robert Craighead) try to intervene on family and business matters.

All principle actors are formidable in their roles, but it’s really Ms. Martin’s performance that centers the play. She balances dementia and confusion beautifully with her lucid determination to care for her remaining children.

Naila Aladdin-Sanders’ costumes only add to the state of deterioration of the family and reflects their own image of themselves. These characters are definitely larger than life and at times the small Fountain Theatre stage barely contains them; the shouting matches can be a bit much at times. Still, the play washes over the audience in waves, building momentum.

When it works, it’s as beautiful as any of Williams’ previous works. When it doesn’t, as in the use of direct audience address, it just seems off. Not everything can be The Glass Menagerie.

Performances through April 17 at the Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call 323-663-1525 or visit www.fountaintheatre.com.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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