Wineke: American Players Theatre plays for those who love APT

Wineke: American Players Theatre plays for those who love APT
Photo by Liz Lauren
Colleen Madden & Cristina Panfilio, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, 2019.

Tennessee Williams’ 1978 play, “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur,” is a nice work of drama highlighting the unlikely dreams of Depression-era women and is well worth a trip to American Players Theatre to enjoy.

But, honestly, the quality of the play isn’t the real reason to see it. The real reason to see it is that it features four of APT’s best women actors – actually, four of the best actors anywhere — together in the smallish Touchstone Theater.

Tracy Michelle Arnold, Carolyn Ann Hoerdemann, Colleen Madden and Cristina Panfilio make up the cast of the play, set in St. Louis in 1936.

Wineke: American Players Theatre plays for those who love APT

Actually, the same attraction can be said of another of this season’s plays, “The Book of Will,” which tells the story of actors putting together a folio of Shakespeare’s plays after the bard’s death and which features pretty much the entire APT repertory staff.

This season’s APT productions have been exceptional and the company has added several superb new cast members. But for those of us who have held season tickets for three decades or so, it is really nice to see the actors we’ve come to see as friends over the years working together.

In “Creve Coeur” we find Madden playing the role of Bodey, a blue collar worker in a shoe factory who shares an apartment with Dorthea (Panfilio), an impoverished, starry eyed teacher in the local school who is convinced the principal is about to marry her.

Wineke: American Players Theatre plays for those who love APT

Arnold plays the role of Helena, Dorthea’s somewhat snooty well-dressed friend who needs her younger companion to share a ritzy apartment, apparently not knowing that Dorthea has no money and is being supported by Helena. Hoerdemann fills out the cast as Miss Gluck, a seriously depressed neighbor who also is emotionally supported by Bodey.

Creve Coeur is the name of a local park where Bodey and Dorthea have Sunday picnics, Bodey hoping Dorethea will wed her alcoholic brother.

The play is funny, sad, and ends with resignation. It is a Tennesse Williams play, after all.
It includes 25 actors, including Madden and Arnold, who, the day I was there, had also performed a matinee of “Creve Coeur,” and not only a good part of the resident company but, also, most of the Youth Company.

This is a very funny production that tells a pretty much unknown story.

William Shakespeare did not compile his plays in a book. When he died, they were scattered around and all sorts of people either copyrighted them or plagiarized them.

Wineke: American Players Theatre plays for those who love APT

“The Book of Will” imagines what might have happened if Shakespeare’s former actors and collaborators – including Henry Condell (Jim DeVita) and John Heminges (James Ridge) – gathered up the various plays, put them into one book, First Folio, and saved them for eternity.

It is a delightful play in its own right but, again, made even more delightful just because of the cast involved.

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