The singular theatrical voice of Tennessee Williams pulsates through “Vieux Carré” at the Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood.
Although this resourceful Coeurage Theatre Company production of Williams’ kaleidoscopic memory play doesn’t resolve the property’s liabilities, it’s a noble and inventively executed effort.
Begun in 1938, shortly after Williams escaped to New Orleans from St. Louis, “Vieux Carré” wasn’t completed until 1977. Using an authorial surrogate (Jay Lee plays the Writer) as fulcrum, the action concerns various at-the-end-of-their-rope eccentrics at the French Quarter rooming house where he landed.
Equal parts ribald humor, lurid emotion and raw elegy, the Writer’s accounts pull a plethora of familiar Williams motifs into play against everyone’s crushing loneliness, “a sort of soft, awful groaning in the walls.”
The cast is variable in polish, uniform in commitment. Melinda deKay’s demented landlady Mrs. Wire, pitched among Patricia Neal, Anne Ramsey and a banshee, gives a courageous, affecting performance. Dieterich Gray overcomes a rather too-healthy aspect as consumptive painter Nightingale, building to a hair-raising culmination.
“Vieux Carré,” Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends March 12. Pay what you want. www.coeurage.org/vieuxcarre or (323) 944-2165. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.