Set in the late 1930s, the 1957 play tells the story of Sebastian Venable, a wealthy and secretive poet who died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing in Europe with his cousin, Catharine Holly. Catharine claims that Sebastian was killed by a mob of young men who he had been using as sexual prey, and that they ate his flesh in a cannibalistic frenzy, according to a Black Box synopsis.
Sebastian’s mother, Violet Venable, refuses to believe this version of events and tries to silence Catharine by having her lobotomized.
She invites a young psychiatrist, Dr. Cukrowicz, to her mansion and offers to fund his research if he agrees to perform the operation on Catharine. Dr. Cukrowicz, however, is more interested in hearing Catharine’s story and decides to give her a truth serum to make her talk. As Catharine recounts the horrifying details of Sebastian’s death, Violet becomes increasingly agitated and tries to stop her.
The play is considered one of the greatest American plays of the modernist period.
Suddenly Last Summer is a one-act, which opened off Broadway on Jan. 7, 1958, as part of a double bill with another of Williams’ one-acts, Something Unspoken.
A film version was released by Columbia Pictures, in 1959, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift; it was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz from a screenplay by Gore Vidal and Williams.
The Black Box cast includes Patti Flaherty as Violet Venable, Matt Walsh as Dr. John Cukrowicz, and Noel Jean Huntley as Catherine Holly. The cast also includes Ann Keeney-Grafft, Lisa Kahn, James Becker, and Jacqueline E. Cohoon.
The direction and design are by Black Box co-founder and artistic Director Lora Adams; set construction by Michael Kopriva and light design by Roger Pavey, Jr.
Tickets ($16) are available at theblackboxtheatre.com or at the door for $16 and the show runs October 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 at 7:30 and Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2 p.m.