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Portrait of a Madonna explores many themes ahead of its time,
society’s view on mental illness, the scrutiny of the church, the
sense of being lonely, alienated and persecuted. Facing ones fears and going
against the norm was the feeling I was left with no one wants to end up like
Lucrita living in regret making up a fantasy just to cope with the choices you
had made in life. This short performance written by Tennessee Williams
performance was viewed on 12/8/17 at Moorpark College.

The play opens with a
manic woman calling the lobby and insists on speaking to the manager of her apartment
complex. She tells him that she is being raped night after night by a man she
once knew. We now have a sense of mystery and suspense and many questions as we
hear the elevator open and the bell boy and Mr. Porter enter we learn that the
situation is not quite as atrocious but something more complex. As the play
unfolds the unraveling mental state of the woman Lucretia is reveled but
Williams explores this madness with compassion and sympathy. Unable to cope
with life she has lived and lost love, Lucretia builds this story up in her
mind to deal with pressure of her existence. This decent into madness came
about from her failure to live up to what she believed was her place in society
“in the South it was never considered essential for a girl to have anything
but prettiness and charm” and she was to marry her Beau Richard but she
losses his affection to a more sexually open girl “Cincinnati girl” as Lucretia
calls her. Years later Lucretia can still not forget that the “common
little strumpet” Lcuretia believes that the “Cincinnati girl” being more
outspoken sexually was the reason she lost Richard and she failed to see any
fault in herself.

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When the play opened we
hear an old record playing almost eerily quitting the audience this helps
establish the setting and feel of the play, the lights were dimly lit symbolizing
Lucreti’s fading sanity.The porter and the bell boy enter the apartment and
begin to cough and cover their mouths letting the audience know the apartments decrepit
state this also servers to symbolize Lucretia lack of awareness and how nothing
seems to be of importance to her anymore. The costumes the porter and the bell
boy wore seemed to be fresh and new, the porters Hair was well kept the bell
boy stands up straight which works well in contrast with Lucretia whose hair is
a mess and she wears a nightgown at all hours. The music on the record player
was perfectly timed and really was able to draw me in.

This performance was
carried by the actress playing Lucretia her line delivery was superb and you
could really feel the emotion put into this somber role. When Lucretia would
speak of the past the actress would look off in the distance and you could tell
she was taken back to that time and lost in that moment and when she spoke of
Richard you could tell she still loved him just from the expression on her face
and would quickly turn to anger when she thought of the “Cincinnati girl” and
how she stole Richard away from her. The performance of the rest of the cast
was lacking but they had their moments the way the Porter spoke softly and was
kind to Lucretia was done well there was defiantly sympathy in his voice when
speaking to her. The actors that played the insane asylum crew also did a good
job by seeming to be disinterested in whatever she had to say when Lucretia
would monologue they would look away and often ignore her entirely. Some of the
acting was a little lackluster lines were messed up words were fumbled over but
the lead carried it through and it was very enjoyable story nonetheless.

The issue’s Willams tried
to tackle with this play were quite advanced for the era this was written in. The
idea that not being able to be this southern bell is too much to handle and so
Lucreta rather than choosing to make different choices she decides to live in a
fantasy world a world of her own insanity. Just before the doctor and nurse
arrive, the Porter suggests to Lucretia that it would be better for her to be
living somewhere else. To this Lucretia replies, “lf only I had the
courage- but I don’t. I’ve grown so used to it here, and people outside- it’s
always so hard to face them!” shows that part of her wanted to change maybe
this is Williams way of saying the mentally ill need help instead of being
thrown in a basically a prison that is an insane asylum. Lucrita  fabricates the lie that she is with child
just to build up in her head that her child would live life free of the pain
and torment that she lived under even though the child is not real she believe
that she can prevent her child from being persecuted like she has been. It was
a bleak show but when the curtains closed I was left with one conclusion to
live for yourself and not live to be something that society tells you, you
should be.

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