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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Paper Mill Playhouse, New York

By Robert L. Daniels

In its transfer from the smaller Hartford Stage to the sprawling playing area of the Paper Mill Playhouse. Tennessee Williams' warm weather sonata, "Summer and Smoke" just might have lost some of its intimacy, but certainly none of its poetic grandeur. It's a daunting thought to come to terms with the realization that the drama that has reached the sixty year mark, and it remains undimmed by the memory of Geraldine Page who appeared in the principal role of Alma on stage in a 1952 Gotham revival, and in the subsequent film. (Margaret Phillips created the role on Broadway in 1948)

The drama has grown in stature in the Williams canon and resonates today with a subtle passion that is the playwright's poetic trademark.

As the sexually repressed minister's daughter, Amanda Plummer offers a restrained performance, avoiding the skittish mannerisms that one has come to expect. Her wispy Alma Winemiller is quietly subtle and she is clearly defined as straitlaced in the possession of a deep burning ember within. She strikes a subtle mood and attitude that in her own quiet way works for the character. Some of her line delivery is rushed, and I for one was surprised by her fleeting dismissal of the lofty Oscar Wilde quote, "all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."  Emotional energy appears to be on hold in lieu of restrained passion.

Kevin Anderson as the handsome pleasure seeking small town doctor provides a slick account of shallow charm and harbored passion.  Jennifer Harmon is pertly amusing as Alma's mentally tilted mother, while Stephanie Beatriz lends a steamy seductive turn as the tigerish Rosa Gonzales.  Marta Reiman is deliciously foxy as the doctors intended.

Michael Wilson has staged the willowy drama with a fluent hand, and if lacking in fire the play extends a genteel portrait of still life. Tony Straiges' skeletal set offers a small Southern American town against the purity of a powder blue sky. The year is 1918, and the village square is dominated by a drinking fountain governed by the statue of an angel whose wings are lifted to the heavens. As poetically defined by Williams,   "Her body is stone and her blood is mineral water."



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