Critics split over Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real”

It’s always interesting to see what kind of play inspires critics to take opposing sides.

Evidently Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real” is one of those plays. Lacking a central plot, the characters (including Casanova and Don Quixote) inhabit a sort of dreamscape .

Eric Knutson as Kilroy and Sara Richardson as Esmeralda. Photos by Richard Fleischman.

Girl Friday Productions’ remount of this work from the 1950s has elicited strong responses on both ends of the spectrum.

John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com finds it to be a “bang-up production:”

Williams’s ravishing language and torn-from-the-dark-night-of-the-soul theatrics never bore.  Indeed, this is a production you might very well wish to revisit…Camino Real could very easily become flaccid and aimless, but intelligent director/set designer Benjamin McGovern does not permit this.  His production moves briskly, the action on or in front of a long platform slashing across the Theatre Garage stage…And the acting, wow.

Camino Real is coming into its own.  It’s not an easy play.  The cast is huge.  Critical reaction to the 1953 production was yowlingly negative, but revivals have been coming regularly – on Broadway, at Williamstown, the Goodman, Hartford Stage.  The play is beginning to acquire real momentum; hopefully this will continue.  It’s a masterwork and deserves a wider audience.

Pioneer Press critic Dominic Papatola had a completely different experience:

…The cast doesn’t mesh, and the play moves through its paces at an uninspired gait and with a limited palette of emotional hue. Although it wouldn’t be right to call this production of “Camino Real” a bore, it certainly doesn’t compel. Rather like the characters that reside on its eponymous stretch of road, the play seems trapped within itself, with no real desire to escape.

Papatola says there’s a reason why this production is rarely staged.

Have you seen “Camino Real” at Minneapolis Theatre Garage? What did you think? “Masterwork” or “uninspired?”