When the curtain rises for act 1 of The Night of the Iguana, the audience sees the broad verandah of the rustic Costa Verde Hotel in the midst of a tropical jungle. The midday is clear and sultry. Down the hill on which the hotel is situated can be heard the excited voices of numerous women, and it is this disturbance that brings a stout, swarthy woman around the turn of the verandah and into the audience’s direct view. She looks down the hill a moment and suddenly recognizes one of the people, a man; she laughs and calls his name—Shannon. The woman is Maxine Faulk, she and her late husband Fred are old acquaintances of T. Lawrence Shannon. Having climbed the hill, Shannon tells Maxine that he had hoped to see and talk with Fred, because he feels emotionally unstable and Fred’s conversation was always helpful at such times.
Once an ordained Episcopal minister but expelled from the church for heresy and fornication, Shannon has been a tour guide for ten years, the last five with Blake Tours, and he is now guiding a busload of schoolteachers from Baptist Female College, Texas. Shannon’s immediate problem is that he has had sexual relations with the youngest of the women; the woman in charge of the group, Judith Fellowes, is outraged and intends to report him. His need for Fred’s companionship has prompted him to abandon the tour’s scheduled route and stops, and now he cannot persuade Fellowes to accept stopping for a time at Maxine’s hotel. Although he has in his pocket the ignition key for the bus, the women are refusing to get out of the vehicle—except for Fellowes, who soon storms the hill and demands to use the hotel telephone to call the headquarters of Blake Tours in Texas. While Fellowes is on the telephone, Maxine shaves Shannon’s face, tells him that he can have Fred’s room permanently, offers him Fred’s shoes and socks, suggests that he let the women leave without him, and makes it abundantly clear that she wants sexual favors from him. What she does not want is two more customers who arrive at the hotel—Hannah Jelkes and her grandfather, Jonathan Coffin, the two of them penniless, she a portraitist and he a ninety-seven-year-old poet in a wheelchair. Shannon convinces Maxine to take them in for at least this one night.
Act 2 opens upon the same day several hours...
(The entire section is 952 words.)