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New York City - Theatre

Sara Buffamanti and Tuomas Hiltunen
Austin Flint's Prison Light
Photo Credit: Hunter Canning

Austin Flint's
Prison Light

Thursday 7:00pm
Friday 7:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm
October 21 - 30th

At first you’re content to take Austin Flint’s Prison Light at face value. Parker, a goodhearted man driven by his anger at injustice, is preoccupied with two prisoners who have been detained, blindfolded and shackled without charge. He can hear their voices, he claims. Are they at Gitmo (even though one of them is a woman)? Are they at one of those black sites the CIA has secreted in countries whose governments are less than diligent about civil liberties? If that’s the case, how can Parker possibly make a difference, despite the dozens of letters he writes to some shady, unnamed authorities? Then, Parker makes an uneasy contact with the prisoners. It looks like they’re being kept not far from where he lives, and it seems like he lives somewhere in the United States. Parker leaves his watch with them as a guarantee that he’ll return to free them. How can this be? Who let him into the prison to talk to these prisoners? Later, we see Parker’s wife Elizabeth soothe him after he’s had a seizure and nightmare, but his watch is still gone.

A Kafkaesque quality suffuses the play, thanks largely to Andrea Mincic’s minimalist set, Elizabeth Rhodes’ sound design, Ellie Rabinowitz’s lighting design and Alice Reagan’s crisp direction. On his way to the prisoners, Parker is accosted by a stranger (Chad Hoeppner, in one of three roles) who warns him of overall lawlessness in the land. When Parker visits a hardware store to buy tools to break the prisoners out, the proprietor (Hoeppner again) is suspicious of him, and threatens to shoot him when he decides to leave. Parker's job is repetitive, soulless and quite possibly absurd. His boss, Pembroke, (Meg MacCary) is a martinet, his coworker (Hoeppner) is a flunky. Who, after all, is the prisoner?

The acting in this brief, intense play is excellent. Bernardo Cubria is moving, bewildering and ultimately heartbreaking as Parker, and Danielle Slavick gets our sympathy as the wife who loves and stays with him despite his obsessions. Sara Buffamanti and Tuomas Hiltunen are also good as the two prisoners. We learn quickly that whoever they are, they weren’t innocents picked up because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Buffamanti and Hiltunen convey the right amount of menace, desperation and contempt as they dare Parker to release them into the world. MacCary is appropriately frosty as Pembroke and Hoeppner makes the most of his three very different roles. Costume designer Ramsey Scott dresses everyone but Parker and Elizabeth in fabric that reminds one of both camouflage and a sad, grayish tie-dye.

Prison Light is an unsettling glimpse into the anxieties that live in one man’s head, and maybe the anxieties that live out there in the world.

Ticket Price: $18.00 | Tickets by Phone: 212-352-3101

HERE | 145 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013


Tennessee Williams's
Suddenly Last Summer
Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Additional performance: October 1st at 2 p.m.
September 16th October 2nd, 2011
Hudson Guild Theater

Reviewed by Arlene McKanic

One wonders what Tennessee Williams was thinking when he wrote Suddenly Last Summer, his macabre and bizarrely funny one acter now at the Hudson Guild Theatre, presented by the White Horse Theater Company. We know he was seeing a shrink at the time, and he was forever tormented by his sister Rose’s institutionalization in what he called the “bug house,” and their crazy mother’s role in having her committed and then lobotomized. Thus it shouldn’t be surprising that Suddenly Last Summer is a gumbo of madness, spiritual incest and cannibalism. It's hard, in this day and age, to take it seriously. But director Cyndy A. Marion and her stellar cast succeed in moving their audience, inspite of the improbabilities.

The story concerns Sebastian, a sensitive poet-type who we never see, who was killed under very odd circumstances at a place call Capo de Lobo (Wolf’s Head?). His mother, Violet Venable, has inherited his house with its tropical garden and is the executrix of his will. Sebastian has left a great deal of money to his cousins, Catharine Holly and her brother George, but George believes they can get their hands on it only if Catharine recants her description of Sebastian’s death. More, not only will they not get Sebastian’s money if Catharine doesn’t change her story, but Catharine will be pulled from the tony mental institution that her aunt is paying for and thrown into what amounts to a snake pit. And Mrs. Venable isn’t above bribing the earnest young doctor who’s come to evaluate the situation to accept her view of events, either.

Whatever else a theatergoer may think about Suddenly Last Summer, it does have some absolutely juicy parts. Elizabeth Bove is fantastic as Mrs. Venable. At first, lame, dressed in her draperies, with her poisoned honey Southern voice, we believe she’s a frail and charming old lady. But slowly and even subtly, Bove reveals Mrs. Venable’s utter monstrousness. Her devotion to her profligate son should be charming, but we immediately pick up the undercurrent of rottenness; they carried on more like lovers than mother and son as they gallivanted all around Europe. After Mrs. Venable had her stroke and was unable to beguile Sebastian’s potential conquests, he took up with his cousin Catharine, superbly played by Lacy J. Dunn. Dunn’s Catharine is both vulnerable, voluptuous, capable of childish spite (love that scene where she stubs out her cigarette in her nun/caretaker’s palm) but compelled to tell the truth, with or without a truth serum. Douglas Taurel is excellent as the naive Dr. Cukrowicz. He assumes he’s come to Mrs. Venable’s mansion to do the right thing, and just barely manages to escape her corruption. His last lines redeem him, if not Catharine.

The supporting actors are also good, and WIlliams must have had a bit of nasty fun creating their characters. Heather Lee Rogers is Miss Foxhill, Mrs. Venable’s companion, and Rogers has fun emphasizing her character's excruciating primness. Carol Ann Foley’s Sister Felicity is only trying to do the admittedly difficult job of keeping Catharine in check. She doesn’t quite deserve to have a cigarette put out in her hand, but then, she was asking for it. Lué McWilliams brings the right note of hysteria to Catharine’s mother, while Haas Regen plays up George’s hateful foppishness. His concern for his sister doesn’t extend past his need for her to get her story straight so he can collect his loot. McWilliams and Regen are engaging, and hilarious.

John C. Scheffler’s set design is fantastic, with only a few strategically placed pots of snake plants placed around the set, a back wall full of windows and a ghastly, huge Venus flytrap stage left. Debra Leigh Siegel’s lighting, Colin Whitely’s sound design and Joe Gianono’s incidental music all add to the perception of a place that's too hot, too humid and too claustrophobic. David B. Thompson’s costumes, from the doctor's innocent vanilla suit to Catharine’s little hat and the nun’s moth gray habit, fix the play at a certain time, but not too rigidly. This is one production of Suddenly Last Summer that’s worth seeing. It’ll be at the Hudson Guild Theatre till October 2.

There will be an interpreted performance for the deaf on Tuesday, September 27th. Tickets are $18 and are now available online at or by calling (212) 868-4444. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater ½ hour prior to performance. Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes Website:

Hudson Guild Theater |441 West 26th St.




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