The Southern Miss Theatre performed its first show of the season, Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana,” Thursday, Oct. 18, in Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre.
The play, written by Mississippi-born Tennessee Williams, tells the story of an array of interesting characters finding themselves inside the Costa Verde hotel in 1940’s Mexico. “The Night of the Iguana” is looked at by many, including director Shannon Bain, as the last of Williams’ great plays.
“When I came into the [MFA directing] program, I said very early on, probably in my first interview, that I would love to do a Tennessee Williams,” Bain said.
“I’ve always felt connected to his work,” Bain said. “He’s a Mississippian and his work is just poetry—it’s almost musical. His work very much inspired me to do what I do. Every chance I get, I would love to direct one of his pieces.”
The program refers to the play as “feverishly poetic” and says that the characters are on a “desperate quest for much-needed sanctuary.” “Night of the Iguana” premiered on Broadway in 1961 and is based on the 1948 short story also by Williams.
The play is meant for mature audiences. Strobe lights and herbal cigarettes are used during the show. Both English and Spanish are spoken in the play to bring the setting to life.
There are also themes in the play about finding oneself and letting go of baggage.
Senior theatre major Lorena Cohea plays the role of Maxine Faulk, the widowed owner of the Coste Verde hotel.
“The play is really just about finding connection. Everyone’s looking to find a connection with someone in some way whether it is physically or mentally,” Cohea said. “Just exploring the diversity of people and what their goals are in life. Then bringing it all into one place, a hot and sweaty hotel, and just seeing where it goes.”
Cohea has been performing since she was four and been in six mainstage shows at Southern Miss. “The Night of the Iguana” is the last play she will perform with the theatre department.
“I will rep this theatre till the day I die,” Cohea said. “I owe them my theatre knowledge. I wouldn’t have known anything about theatre until I got here. I knew I wanted to do theatre, but I didn’t know all the ins and outs of it. If it weren’t for the faculty here, as well as the student support, I mean. I love it. I’m literally going to start crying,” Cohea said.
Among the eclectic hotel visitors is a group of Germans, the world’s oldest poet, a painter and a reverend. Nathaniel Jones plays the role of Jake Latto, a man who finds himself at odds with Reverend Shannon.
“So the play is really all about the human condition and the way we can trap ourselves in loops. It’s about our capacity for self-destruction,” sophomore theatre major Nathaniel Jones said. “Jake Latta is a rival tour guide of Shannon’s although they work for the same company. I see them like two rival cheerleaders. Jake’s role in the show is basically to push Shannon just over the edge.”
Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” is not genre specific and leaves the audience both laughing and crying.
The last showing of “The Night of the Iguana” will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 in Hartwig Theatre. Students can buy tickets for $8 while faculty, staff, seniors and military can buy them for $10 in the box office in the Theatre and Dance building. General admission is $15.
“Cabaret” is the next production by the theatre department and will be performed Nov. 8-11 in the Martha R. Tatum Theatre.