Tennessee Williams Goes Camp in The Mutilated


You might not assume that John Waters and Tennessee Williams have much in common, though Waters has publicly confessed his adoration of Williams. One thing the two share is a romantic view of what others might consider sleaze. But whereas Waters treats filth as light comedy, Williams, at his best, spins trash into profound tragedy.

However, when Williams is off his game, as with the 1966 one-act The Mutilated (usually paired with “The Gnädiges Fräulein” as Slapstick Tragedy), a tale of twisted friendship between a lonely Blanche DuBois knockoff and a New Orleans hooker, he slides into camp; if the cannibalistic denouement of Suddenly, Last Summer has ever made you guffaw, you understand.

The stroke of mad genius in this production at the New Ohio Theatre, transplanted from Provincetown — where else? — is to cast Mink Stole, veteran of many a Waters film, and performance artist Penny Arcade as the leads. Cherry Jones and Marian Seldes they are not. Still, Stole minces sweetly through the role of Trinket Dugan, a belle with damage to the chest area that she considers an unspeakable affliction. Arcade, in contrast, is a riot, gnashing across the boards like Edith Massey as Celeste, the slatternly, amoral frenemy who knows Trinket’s secret, uses it to extort her, and loses no opportunity to emphasize the size and integrity of her own boobs. Oh — and it’s a Christmas play. There’s a chorus of carolers. At the end, a miracle occurs. This production gives the play what it needs: more slapstick, less tragedy.