As students of the 21st century, it can be difficult to relate to works created decades before we were born. The Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) brought to life a one-act play by American theatrical master, Tennessee Williams, written three quarters of a century ago, and showed its magnitude through a modern lens.
Directed by Dexter Singleton, a visiting professor of performance at UConn School of Fine Arts, “This Property is Condemned” is the second installment of a three part series of lesser-known works from Tennessee Williams’ treasure trove of one-act plays.
“This Property is Condemned,” running less than a half an hour, is regarded as one of Williams’ most popular one-act plays, following the Golden Globe-nominated 1966 film adaptation of the same name starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood. Written in 1946, the play is set in Depression-era Mississippi. A 13-year-old girl, Willie, meets a 16-year-old boy, Tom, while walking along the railroad tracks. Having dropped out of school and watched her family die and home be condemned by the government, Willie resolved to become a whore and leave the shred of life she had behind.
With live theatrical events being performed in alternate modes during the ongoing pandemic, the production was carried out over Zoom in a dual-screen depicting the characters in the same scene with the same props despite performing miles away from one another. While past CRT productions this year have featured actors and technicians working in different states across the U.S., I was shocked to learn that the two actors were rehearsing from different countries entirely, with the leading actor coming in from California and the leading actress coming in from Canada, all while connecting with the creative team centered in Storrs.
Katelyn Trieu (Willie) and Andre Chan (Tom) dazzled as the production’s leading characters. The both masterfully employed a Mississippi Delta dialect despite being born and raised several thousand miles away from the film’s setting.
In a talk-back following the final bows of the production, the actors, both Asian-identifying, explained the story’s resonance in the light of the murders in Atlanta to occur just three days before the production’s opening night. Trieu, in particular, was able to examine her character’s dissent into sex work through the lens of the characterization and fetishization of the Asian woman in American culture. While the actors made clear that productions should never market off of societal tragedies, the event did allow them to resonate with their characters in different ways and understand the mindset of the characters on a different level than when first approaching the material.
While the production of “This Property is Condemned” concluded on Sunday, March 21, the final play of the Tennessee Williams series, “And Tell Sad Stories Of The Death Of Queens,” will premiere in April. For more information or to purchase tickets to any Spring 2021 CRT production, visit their website, or call the box office at 860-486-2113.