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Review: This ‘Night of the Iguana’ Is Williams Without the Excess

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His pleas need spirit, if only of desperation, and Daly, in a verbally stumbling performance, does not convey someone with the power to seduce with ease. This hesitation extends to most of the ensemble, who struggle with the cadence of Williams’s writing, except for the unflinching DeLaria and, as a hippie-ish painter named Hannah, Jean Lichty.

Like Shannon, Hannah is a hustler with lofty spiritual ambitions, traversing the world trading watercolors and recitations for hotel rooms with her aging poet father (Austin Pendleton, whose adequacy with the play’s rhythms is undermined by the brevity of his time onstage). Shannon and Hannah’s near act-length conversation in the show’s second half, as she attempts to calm him down from the ledge, comes closest to achieving its intended discourse on freedom and redemption thanks to the surety with which Lichty imbues her character.

It might be that, in trying to demystify Williams’s extravagance to get at its emotional core, Mann has thrown the priest out with the holy water. It’s possible to strip away the surfaces of the playwright’s worlds — a revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” last year did away with its Old South glamour and still got its point across — but not the excesses they need to reach their delicious boiling points.

Traces of those remain, like Jeff Croiter’s tropical lighting, Beowulf Boritt’s stilted, shabby-chic set, and Rubin-Vega’s unshakable earthiness. But they don’t compensate for the play’s weaker elements, like two giddy German tourists (Alena Acker and Michael Leigh Cook) whose sporadic, Nazi-praising appearances are a thudding example of the duplicity Shannon rails against, in this case aimed at Maxine for renting them rooms.

Williams wants it both ways in those moments, validating his protagonist’s gripes even as he condemns him. The gambit is not impossible, but is one that needs a production more convincing, more drunk on its own pretensions, to really win over a congregation.

The Night of the Iguana
Through Feb. 25 at the Pershing Square Signature Center, Manhattan; iguanaplaynyc.com. Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes.

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