Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore

When compared with the 1968 movie staring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (Boom!) almost anything could shine.  As a matter of fact, the play was first mounted on Broadway in 1963 (re-mounted in1964) and played a combined total of 74 performances - receiving poor reviews all around.

So why then did the Roundabout choose this little known flop to re-mount?  One word - Tennessee Williams.   His works are grand and his talent well proven.  Perhaps the secret to this run's success will be two-fold - a complete dumbing down of the unnecessarily over-the-top costumes, Hollywood-like sets, and unnecessary camp and phony glamour but, more importantly, Olympia Dukakis herself.  

The play centers around Flora Goforth (Olympia Dukakis), a wealthy, older, eccentric dying American woman who had fled to an isolated cliff side villa retreat on the Italian coast to write her memoirs and live out her final days.  She receives a very handsome young visitor who is a struggling poet known as "the angel of death" (Darren Pettie) and we are taken on a journey into the minds and hearts of two very different individuals who both deeply want and need something from this relationship.  Round out the cast with an eccentric (read gay) friend, locally known as The Witch of Capri (Edward Hibbert) and Blackie (Maggie Lacey), Mrs Goforth's tortured personal assistant and you end up with a cauldron of wit, sarcasm, humor and love that Mr. Williams serves up deliciously.

Without the baggage of being a big dramatic (or drama-filled) Hollywood star, Dukakis plays the role in her own unique and humble style - leaving out most of the camp and everything that comes along with such a background.  She uniquely slices straight to the heart of Mrs Goforth - exposing her vulnerabilities, wants and needs, all the while maintaining her vitality and and sharp tongue.  Overall, the play, in Tennessee Williams signature style, is a bit too long, but when you're enjoying the banter and emotions on the stage, sometimes that doesn't matter.