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Adele Elliott: Iguana chronicles


Adele Elliott



Many years ago, while recovering from a brutal divorce, I traveled through the Yucatan with a companion. We rented a yellow Volkswagen and wandered without an itinerary or plan of any sort. It was September. Most tourists had returned to school, and work, and the promise of autumn. However, in Mexico temperatures were still in the high 90s. We had the peninsula almost to ourselves, and time meant nothing. 


I remember visiting the ruins of Tulum, where Mayans had built step-like pyramids on a rocky cliff. We shared the site with a couple who spoke only French, and with hundreds of iguanas. The spiky lizards perched on the corners and doorways and stone protrusions of the temples, motionless, like gargoyles. Occasionally, when startled, one would leap from its pedestal and scurry into the cool, green jungle.  


On that trip we saw monkeys and tarantulas, caves full of bats, and brilliantly colored birds in the rainforest. But I will always associate Mexico with iguanas. 


Tuesday, Chris and I took another journey to Mexico, this time in a comfortable front-row seat of Rent Auditorium. A production of "The Night of the Iguana" was one of the many offerings of the Tennessee Williams Tribute. Although written and set in the 1940s, the play is timeless. Williams'' dialogue is as fresh and brilliant today as it was 60 years ago. 


This was an excellent production. All the actors were quite good. Most were local, with the exception of veteran Elliott Street, appearing as doddering poet Nonno. Shane Tubbs played the lead as the dissolute Rev. Shannon, shattering into emotional shards on the stage. The play has two leading ladies: Melanie Hintz, as lusty innkeeper Maxine; and Laura Beth Berry, willowy and fragile Hannah. 


I dare not fail to mention Cherri Golden (you may know her alter ego, Miss Cherri Moonpie) in the role of the truly daunting Miss Judith Fellowes. Even this character, an angry lesbian, is unable to protect the virtue of a young member of her party from the degenerate Rev. Shannon. 


Kudos to director Paula Mabry, producer Brenda Caradine, and everyone who worked so hard to present this play. Oh, yes, the iguana was well-played by a soft sculpture. 


In spite of a nervous breakdown, a statutory rape, an on-stage death, and a busload of fuming and irate tourists, this play has some very amusing and light moments. (Well, for Tennessee Williams, anyway.) 


"Iguana" holds a cherished place in my heart because it was a favorite of my father''s. He was an English teacher and would have made a wonderful Rev. Shannon. 


I returned home from my long-ago trip with a stinging sunburn and the worst hangover of my life. For about 10 years afterward, I could not stomach even the word "tequila." However, those who were lucky enough to catch "The Night of the Iguana" left with a program featuring a delicately rendered portrait of a golden-eyed iguana, by artist RenĂ©e Sheridan -- that, and a truly excellent theater experience. 


(Special note to Marleen Hansen: Many thanks for the tickets. And a very happy 100th to Tom. Columbus loves you both!) 


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at [email protected]


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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