By Connie Bollinger
Set in 1930’s St. Louis, “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” tells the story of one afternoon in the lives of four women: Bodey, Dorothea, Helena and Miss Gluck.
The acting is wonderful: Kelley Weber as Bodey, Maggie Wininger as Dorothea, Julie Layton as Helena and Ellie Schwetye as Miss Gluck. They understood their characters and presented them beautifully.
Three are single, struggling to keep going in the face of disappointment, loneliness, watching their dreams of career and family slowly fading. The fourth is also struggling with extreme grief and sorrow because of the death of her mother and only companion.
Bodey works at Brown Shoe Company on the production line, Dorothea and Helena are teachers at a local high school, and we’re never told just what it is that Miss Gluck does.
Bodey has a mothering complex, taking damaged persons under her ample wings. She envisions a match between her twin brother and Dorothea, hoping they’ll provide lots of nieces and nephews for her to spoil and love.
Dorothea is engaged in an affair with the high school principal whom she hopes to marry asap. She also planning on leaving the cramped and shabby apartment she shares with Bodey to move in with the sophisticated art teacher and colleague, Helena. Better address, better chances of marriage.
Miss Gluck just wants coffee and crullers every morning to relieve her grief and garner a bit of companionship.
Sometimes this play is hard to watch. It has some unexpected humor scattered here and there, but mostly we can see that, despite their machinations and hopes, none of these women will be happy until they let go of their disappointment and craft a new normal.
Director Kari Ely brings us a complete picture of the residents of the tiny apartment on Enright Avenue. Aside from some unfortunate pacing decisions, her direction is stellar.
The scenic designer, Ali Strelchun, does a wonderful job of creating the little efficiency apartment with mismatched furniture and nothing approaching color coordination. Still, we get the feeling of being welcomed and can almost smell the chicken frying in the kitchen.
Costume designer Garth Dunbar has done a fine job dressing our ladies, from Bodey’s printed “house dress” to Dorothea’s 30’s style shorts and blouse, to Miss Gluck’s nondescript black jumper and white blouse. He outdid himself on Helena’s smart and stylish suit and accessories, though.
Sound designer Kareem Deanes, Lighting designer David LaRose, and Technical Director Joseph Novak all did a bang-up job in what is probably a difficult space to accommodate — the Grand Hall is atop the main stage inside the newly renovated Grandel Theater.
Although this work is not one of the most famous or even the best of Tennessee Williams, it’s warm and poignant, and a good time.
The fourth annual Tennessee Williams Festival presents “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur” on May 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Grand Hall in the Grandel Theatare, 3601 Grandel Square, St. Louis. For more information, visit www.twstl.org