Green Eyes

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Sunday January 22, 2012

Alan Brincks and Erin Markey in "Green Eyes"
Alan Brincks and Erin Markey in "Green Eyes"  

Tennessee Williams is the 20th century playwright who keeps on giving well into the 21st. Witness "Green Eyes," his brief 1971 play (not published until 2008) that has taken up residence at the posh Ames Hotel through February 12 in a production by Company One.

There is, though, nothing posh about the play's two main characters - newlyweds on a bender of a honeymoon in a less-upscale New Orleans hotel. Just look at the velvet painting on the wall - a garish tiger staring out an the audience - and you get the idea.

The play is a more of a tease than a fully-formed work, which is why this presentation proves so crucial. Without this site-specific approach - the audience sits in the hotel room while the two actors do their best to keep their privacy - the play would likely feel slighter than it actually is. Buoyed by two electric performances, "Green Eyes" sizzles with sexual tension and voyeuristic pleasures.

Erin Markey and Alan Brincks in "Green Eyes"
Erin Markey and Alan Brincks in "Green Eyes"  (Source: Karl Giant)

What happens? Really not much at all. The couple (Claude Dunphy and his wife, referred to only as Mrs. Dunphy) wakes up after what appears to be a very rough night. She has bruises (and a prominent hickey); he is hung over. What happened is a mystery: he has found a "rubber" in the toilet, leading him to think that his wife had sex with another man while he was out carousing Bourbon Street until dawn. It turns out on a bar crawl the night before, he stayed out drinking while she returned alone to their hotel room. But did she depend on the company of a stranger or did Claude black out as to what happened upon his return?

The answers come in an explosive confrontation in the play's final moments. Up to that point, "Green Eyes" is an effective game of cat-and-mouse between two Williams' archetypes: the brooding, troubled hunk and his vixen-like partner. In many ways the play is a 1970s retread of a familiar Williams scenario, made relevant to that time with reference to Vietnam (where Claude served and, from the sounds of things, killed some villagers). She taunts, he takes the bait in a confused, brutish way. Like Kim Kardashian and Chris Humphries, this isn't a marriage made in heaven.

To their credit, Erin Markey and Alan Brincks never break the fourth wall, a major accomplishment considering they are just inches from the 20-or-so audiences members and appear in various states of sweaty undress. Markey captures the slow, lyric cadences of Williams' speech and effectively moves in for the kill with the instincts of a scorpion. Little wonder the eyes of the velvet tiger on the wall behind the bed turn green at the play's climax.

Alan Brincks in "Green Eyes"
Alan Brincks in "Green Eyes"  

Brincks conveys Claude's confusion and anger (as seen through a palpable veil of bourbon) with believability, even shading his characters with questions of his mental state and sexuality. He's a mess of raging testosterone; she's both his tormenter and sex object; and they make for a volatile (to say the least) couple to spend an hour with in such close quarters.

Travis Chamberlain choreographs his actors as if they're performing a rough-house Apache dance: they taunt each other, couple, then move apart with an ever-present subtext of violence. His Claude is a loose cannon with a likely case of post-traumatic stress, underscored through the use of reoccurring soundscape of helicopters and guns.

It's hard, though, to tell if this is some sort of dance of death or merely juicy foreplay to some very hot make-up sex. Whatever it is, it is served up with genuine passion and requisite sleaze. "Green Eyes" resembles "Fool for Love" in its over-the-top depiction of mismatched sexual passion and psychological game played by two strung-out characters, yet without a real payoff. The play just tantalizes, but this wonderfully evocative production succeeds in satisfying the Peeping Tom in us all.

"Green Eyes" continues through February 12, 2012 at the Ames Hotel, Court Street, Boston, MA. For more information, visit the Company One website.

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].