New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St.
Tuesday - Sunday through December 1, $35
“We all have our mutilations,” Celeste Delacroix Griffin says in Tennessee Williams’s The Mutilated. The ninety-minute one-act, which flopped on Broadway in 1966 as part of a double bill with The Gnädiges Fräulein collectively titled Slapstick Tragedy, is currently playing to sold-out audiences at the intimate New Ohio Theatre, its first New York revival in thirty-eight years. An ample dose of slapstick and tragedy, the play features Warhol Factory star Penny Arcade (B*TCH!DYKE!FAGHAG!WH*RE!) as Celeste and John Waters muse Mink Stole (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble) as her best friend / feared enemy, Trinket Dugan. With those leads — in roles originated by Kate Reid and Margaret Leighton, respectively — one might expect director Cosmin Chivu’s version to be a camp fest, but this adaptation ends up taking things fairly seriously. It’s Christmas Eve in 1940s New Orleans, and Celeste has just gotten out of the hoosegow only to find herself locked out of her room at the low-rent Silver Dollar Hotel. A buxom broad in a torn mink wrap, she’s more than down on her luck, but she’s tireless, setting her sights on burying the hatchet with Trinket, a lonely oil heiress (of sorts) with a shameful secret only Celeste knows about. But it’s clear that Celeste and Trinket belong together, despite their bitter feud; in fact, the play is very much about how two is more desirable than one. “In life there has to be two!” Trinket declares in a long soliloquy. When a pair of sailors (Niko Papastefanou and Patrick Darwin Williams) come around looking for some fun, both Celeste and Trinket jump at the opportunity to have male company on Christmas Eve, but love is not exactly in the cards for these two very different yet oddly similar women.
The Mutilated actually gets going about twenty minutes before its official start time, with trumpeter Jesse Selengut and his Tin Pan band (Sam Kulik, Adam Brisban, and Anders Zelinski) serenading the arriving audience with raunchy New Orleans–style jazz and blues; they also accompany a group of carolers throughout the show who sing original songs as well as Williams’s own carol, which begins, “I think the strange, the crazed, the queer / Will have their holiday this year / And for a while, a little while / There will be pity for the wild / A miracle, a miracle! / A sanctuary for the wild.” Anka Lupes’s open set includes lighted doorless entries to the hotel, the Bohème nightclub (aptly named, as Celeste and Trinket are a kind of alternate Mimi and Francine), and Trinket’s tiny apartment. Whatever other scenery there might have been has apparently been chewed up by Arcade, who overplays her part with relish, looking like Roseanne Barr gone on a rampage. But Stole provides a gentle counterpoint as Trinket, the two coming together to find a necessary balance, their own version of Blanche and Stella. They also bring to mind a tragic Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello duo, with Stole tall and thin and Arcade short and stout. Even their real names are opposites: “Mink Stole” evoking the rich and fashionable, “Penny Arcade” suggesting the cheap and old-fashioned. (And, furthering the actor-character integration, it’s Arcade who is wearing the mink in the show.) There’s been an abundance of Williams on and off Broadway over the last few years, including the current dazzling production of The Glass Menagerie at the Booth with Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto, but it’s a treat that such lesser-known yet compelling and integral works as The Two-Character Play and The Mutilated are getting their due as well.