Continuing to offer lesser unknown works by the great American playwright, Key West Art & Historical Society presents two one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. The rarely performed comedy Lifeboat Drill and steamy threesome Kingdom of Earth – two intriguing plays with characters trapped, both physically and metaphorically, by rising waters. Starring Alaina Albertson, Michael Catlege, Kitty Clements, Arthur Crocker and Jeffrey Johnson.
Lifeboat Drill, penned in 1979 and published in 1981, was one of the last plays to premiere in Williams’s lifetime. It concerns an elderly married couple, who occupy a stateroom on the Queen Elizabeth II crossing from Cherbourg to New York. Unhappily married, they bicker fiercely and when they discover that they have been deliberately prevented from attending a lifeboat drill by two mischievous stewards, decide to rehearse their own “drill” all by themselves. Mayhem and personal turbulence ensure. It is a “short, grotesque comedy that explores the panic, isolation, sense of abandonment and confusion that accompany old age.” Set adrift in their stateroom, their marriage becomes a metaphor of the disaster of a sinking ship.
The Kingdom of Earth is a one-act play that was published in Esquire Magazine in 1967 and based on a short story Williams wrote in 1942. It bears an ominous epigraph from the Old Testament concerning the Great Flood. It tells the story of a strapping young man named Chicken, living in a Mississippi Delta farmhouse, and preparing for a flood from the rising river when he is unexpectedly visited by his sickly half-brother, Lot, and his newlywed of one-day, Myrtle, a woman whose sexual desire and personal fulfillment force her to make a choice about survival as flood waters approach as the three characters are forced to evacuate. The play was eventually expanded into a full-length play and opened on Broadway in 1968 at The Seven Descents of Myrtle.
Both The Kingdom of Earth and Lifeboat Drill encounter their themes in the idea of the unexpected rising of water: not only what lies beneath, but also what lies ahead.