In our May 2012 interview with the great Jack Ferver, he tantalizingly described what he was working on next, a piece entitled All of a Sudden. “It is loosely inspired by Tennessee Williamsʼs Suddenly, Last Summer and explores the similarities between the artist/dramaturg and the patient/therapist relationship,” he said. “ Of course, it was a play before the film, but having played Cleopatra this past year [in Me, Michelle], I feel I am being haunted by Liz in some way.” Ferver has previously brought his unique interpretation, melding dance, theater, confessional, psychoanalysis, and multimedia elements, to such disparate films as Notes on a Scandal, Poltergeist, Black Swan, and Return to Oz. This time he has set his sights on the steamy story about an institutionalized woman and her sordid southern family, which debuted on Broadway in 1958 and was made into a film the next year by Joseph L. Mankiewicz with an all-star cast that included Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Katharine Hepburn, Albert Dekker, and Mercedes McCambridge. Ferver collaborated with Joshua Lubin-Levy on the new show, which will be performed by the two men along with Jacob Slominski; music and sound design is by regular Ferver composer Roarke Menzies, with set design by Marc Swanson (Ferver’s Two Alike) and costumes by Reid Bartelme (Mon Ma Mes). Ferver has an endlessly inventive imagination that is thrilling to watch onstage; he’s never afraid to take chances as he opens up his heart and soul — and injects ample amounts of his wicked sense of humor — in fabulously entertaining and deeply personal ways. All of a Sudden runs May 2-4 at Abrons Arts Center, and you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you missed it.
Update: Jack Ferver blurs the lines between audience and performer, creation and execution, and straight and gay in All of a Sudden, his latest multimedia work to use film as a way to tell a more personal story. This time Ferver focuses in on Tennessee Williams’s 1959 melodrama Suddenly, Last Summer, in which Catherine, a southern woman played by Elizabeth Taylor, is in a mental institution, being treated by a doctor (Montgomery Clift) who is trying to get her to remember a tragic event before her aunt (Katharine Hepburn) forces her to get a lobotomy. The show opens with Ferver, as Catherine, overemoting and Jacob Slominski, as the doctor, underemoting, as Joshua Lubin-Levy sits in a chair across the stage, carefully watching and taking notes. It soon becomes apparent that the three men are in the midst of creating the piece, which is far from done, discussing various elements and possible changes. At one point Slominski goes off to call his wife while Ferver and Lubin-Levy look at clips from Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s film on an old television set that mimics a theatrical dressing-room mirror, and later Ferver and Slominski break off into duets that include lots of kissing. They also at times directly address the audience, acknowledging that they are being viewed while still, in essence, rehearsing. It’s all great fun, but with more than a touch of seriousness to go with the humor. The set, designed by Marc Swanson, features a group of ropes dangling from above in one corner, evoking death and suicide, while Reid Bartelme’s costumes for Ferver are spectacularly beautiful, from ridiculously tight and tiny green body-hugging shorts to an elegant, sparkling red sequined dress. As always, Ferver adds an occasional level of discomfort to the fanciful proceedings, keeping the audience on edge, never knowing quite what is going to happen next as fantasy morphs into reality and back again, art and life becoming one and the same.