“Its like Gone with the Wind on mescaline.”
– Character John Kelso in the film adaptation of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
I was going to write a short review of Friday night’s Literary Late Night: Lafcadio Hearn at the Tennessee Williams Festival, but frankly it was one of those events where you had to be there. That and I left my program on the bar at Cafe Istanbul. Fortunately, there is an online copy of the poster and cover, which gives me the names of all the readers and actors to go with my beer-stained notes.
Things started a bit flat with Chris Lane’s initial reading. It’s hard to imagine an MC for Fleur de Tease being too low key, but that was just the slow climb up the first hill of the roller coaster. C.W. Cannon and Andrew Vaugt (the latter of Cripple Creek Theater) brought their best game and had the audience in stitches with Hearn’s satirical pieces, especially Vaught’s rendition of the calls of street vendors chronicled by Hearn. Cannon’s delivery of the dryly hilarious “A Visit to New Orleans” by the devil was archly perfect and would have had Mark Twain standing to applaud. Once the players had the audience in their hands, the show just got better and better.
I thought at first that spoken word artists Chuck Perkins and Kataalyst Alcindor were too understated in their reading, but in fairness I am used to them in a spoken word/slam environment, which calls for a much different sort of performance. I am still undecided if Kataalyst should have brought his anger to the piece The Indigent Dead, but that may just be my expectation of what he would do with his own work. Reading Hearn’s account of 310 murders in New Orleans with only five persons hung worked in an understated delivery, especially for a New Orleans audience, and as delivered was more in character of a 19th-century author than a full-on slam performance. And when Perkins brought on the Hip-ocracy belly dancers for his reading of “The Dawn of Carnival,” our own private carnival was well underway
Ratty Scurvics was Ratty Scurvics and once again proved that an essential element of stage presence is an animal magnetism that crackles around him like a vast static charge. He was in good voice singing behind the curtain for Trixie Minx’s performance as a clown at a crab boil after Scruvics read “Why Crabs are Boiled Alive,” and Minx’s performance was a fantastic mix of slapstick and burlesque moves. When Madame Mystere of Fleur de Tease came out on her belly riding a dolly and dressed in an alligator mask and tail and not much else for a reading of Hearn’s “The Alligators,” you knew you were at a literary event that could only happen in New Orleans.
Yes, the festival is supposed to be all about Tennessee, but the People Say Project put on a show at Cafe Istanbul with enough tragedy, comedy and sex that I am certain Williams would approve.
This article by local writer Mark Folse is reposted here from his blog, Toulouse Street: Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans, for NolaVie.