"A BAD PLAY IS LIKE A bad marriage," my directing professor used to say. "If it stays bad long enough, you get to leave." I love the practicality of the statement, but I'm the first to counter that if you're going to truly critique a show, you need to survive it. Well, folks, the jig is up: I walked out of Krying Sky Productions' inaugural effort, Tennessee Williams' Vieux Carre, at intermission. I know that these people meant well, and I genuinely hope the evening redeemed itself, but for me, the romance had ended.

An alternately heartbreaking and infuriating amateurishness hangs over the whole production. Mounting Williams' tale of bruised loneliness in a New Orleans boarding house is an ambitious task that seems to have been approached by Krying Sky with excitement but without an ounce of efficiency. What finally sent me out the door on opening night, in fact, was something as basic as the absence of a house manager. I spent the entire first act in the intimate Richard Hugo House watching patrons exit, leave the door of the theater space open, then clamber back to their seats minutes later.

Director John Stehorn should have spent more time crafting the piece's delicate revelations, and less time on the two shameless pages of director's notes that are the program's blushing centerfold. There's an awkward jazz combo on stage put to no good use, a lighting design that is minus the crucial "lighting" part of the bargain, and a staging that falls into chaos the moment more than two characters have to appear at once. Michael Black and Ethan Savaglio, playing the yin and yang of Williams' perennial fetishes -- a yearning young artist and a brutishly seductive lout, respectively -- are the only actors with an honest ear for Williams' tenderness and humor. Everyone and everything else in this almost embarassingly earnest enterprise stumbles in a playground of self-conscious poses and murky cadences, jumping gamely beneath the monkey bars of some greater purpose but never once able to grasp a rung and start swinging.

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