This production of one of Tennessee Williams’ less performed plays is set in turn of the century Mississippi in a small town. It focuses on the relationship between Alma, a music teacher and preacher’s daughter, and John, the son of a doctor. In a play more interesting for its relationships between characters than any complex plot, Williams powerfully evokes a stagnant society in America’s Deep South.
The play is humorous and this was brought out nicely by Ela Portnoy, in the role of Mrs Winemiller, the preacher’s wife. Her complaints and eccentricities, impatient twirling of her parasol and throwing of bits of popcorn, kept us amused throughout. Portnoy, like all Summer and Smoke’s actors proved herself more than capable of rising to the challenge of playing older characters, despite her youth.
Props and costumes set the historical time zone perfectly and lighting was able to conjure for us the “sky rockets” referenced throughout the script. The centrepiece of Sarah Davies’ set is a piece of scenery representing the statue part of a fountain, which rooted the play in the atmosphere of a genteel small town. The fountain paid a crucial part within the narrative of the play.
Alma is a sensitive southern woman, sensitive to factors such as the weather and, of course, her lover John. The production brought out the ambiguity of their relationship which progresses from shyness to love. Natalie Woodward plays the part with skill and just the right sense of humour.
Villagers, played by Olivia White as Rosa, Saul Lowndes-Britton as Mr Winemiller, and Hugh Tappin as Dr. Buchanan, deftly crafted a mutual community feeling. Leo Danczak was particularly notable for his portrayal of John: he coped wonderfully with such an intellectual role.
Though this is a play that doesn’t seem to achieve a great climax, I felt at all times involved with the characters in the intimate venue of the Burton Taylor Studio.