Tennessee Williams' 'Creve Coeur' at Theatre at St. Clement's: Bizarre, nonsensical, for completists only

(Left to right:) Jean Lichty, Annette O'Toole, Kristine Nielsen, and Polly McKie in "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur," through Oct. 21 at the Theatre at St. Clement's in New York.

This is a collector’s item. Unless one of your missions in life is to see a production of every play Tennessee Williams wrote, there is absolutely no reason to see this bizarre show.  A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is a late work, one that Williams called his “bijou”— a big gaudy rhinestone, I’d guess, and one that La Femme Theatre Productions chose, again I”m guessing, because the characters provide four flashy female roles.

First, the play’s name: Creve (pronounced in Southern fashion, "Creeve," rather than the French fashion, "Crev") means “broken heart,” and it is the name of a lake in Missouri where, legend has it, an Indian maiden drowned herself for unrequited love of a French trapper.  Heartbroken is always the name of the game for Tennessee.

A picnic by the lake has been planned by Bodey (Kristine Nielsen),who is ditzy and hard of hearing, to fix up Dorothea (Jean Lichty) with her twin brother. Dorothea is a civics teacher smitten with the school’s principal. The two women share a hilariously cluttered apartment (set designed by Harry Feiner). Helena (Annette O’Toole — the standout in the cast), a faux-sophisticated colleague of Dorothea arrives, offering her the option to move into a larger but more expensive place. Meanwhile, Miss Gluck (Polly McKie) arrives from her apartment upstairs, weeping, saying in a heavy German accent, “I can’t go up.” 

All four are  aging, frantic women (it’s 1937 in the deep South, so being unmarried equals desperate and unhappy); in other words, they’re much like most of Williams’ female characters.  Under Austin Pendleton’s direction, their behavior is goofy, the dialogue is nonsensical, and all told it’s one peculiar evening in the theater.

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. Through Oct. 21 at Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St., New York.