Monday, May 18, 2015

Summer and Smoke


Summer and Smoke
by Tennessee Williams
presented by T. Schreiber Studio for Theatre and Film
directed by Terry Schreiber

Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke opened on Broadway in 1948, a year after A Streetcar Named Desire. It never achieved the success of the earlier play. It resembles Streetcar in its theme, and its central character, Alma Winemiller, is clearly the dramatic cousin of Blanche Dubois.

It’s a delicate play. The story of course, concerns the high-strung, idealistic Alma and her love for the rake next door, John Buchanan. Their relationship never develops into romance; they never reconcile their opposing attitudes and lifestyles during that summer of 1913. But late in the play John comes round to Alma’s idealistic position. She changes as well, and sees life as John had before his reversal. She’s absorbed in that passion that Blanche Dubois calls desire. She says she and John have become “like two people exchanging a call on each other at the same time, and each one finding the other one gone out.”

T. Schreiber Studio for Theatre and Film has produced a marvelous production of the play. Terry Schreiber has directed with a style that’s straightforward and subtle. He avoids clutter, and expresses the nuances of the script eloquently. He never rushes or dwells.

Taylor Graves’ performance as Alma is superb. She shows the affectations of the young woman without being an affected actress. After Alma’s discovers her sensuality, Ms. Graves makes a subtle adjustment. She shows us the change in Alma’s inner life without loosing the spine of the character.

As John Buchanan, Jacques Mitchell gives us a John who’s a worthy foil to Alma.  John says “Did anyone ever slide downhill as fast as I have this summer? Like a greased pig,” and Mr. Mitchell lets us see the complexity of the libertine’s character. Like Ms. Graves, he handles the character’s transformation with deft acting technique.

The director and actors give us the intimate scenes between Alma and John as Williams wrote them, delicate and nuanced. The two have the specificity of individuals and the significance of archetypes. Ms. Graves and Mr. Mitchell together create a deep dramatic conflict.

The skills of the director and cast are enhanced by Hope Governali’s gorgeous costumes. This Summer and Smoke is a lovely, haunting production.

Steve Capra
May 2015