June 25 6:24 PM 2016
by Shari Barrett
Celebrating their 30th season, Pacific Resident Theatre is presenting THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE by Tennessee Williams. Dana Jackson directs a cast that features Ginna Carter, Andrew Dits, Brad Greenquist, Mary Jo Deschanel, and Rita Obermeyer as the Winemiller and Buchanan family members. As in most of Williams’ plays, the setting is the deep south where the steamy weather and repressed mores of the early 20th Century come face-to-face with a romance as hot as the weather which never seems to work out on the best of terms due to a parent’s expectations for their child.
Centered around the same characters first introduced in his play SUMMER AND SMOKE, Williams now explores how despite their differences, John Buchanan (the almost too handsome Andrew Dits) and Alma Winemiller (Ginna Carter who totally embodies the quirky character who sings like a Southern nightingale), are still magnetically drawn to each other after he returns home to Glorius Hill, Mississippi, following his Summa Cum Laude graduation as a medical doctor from Johns Hopkins University. The preacher’s daughter boldly seizes on a chance to follow her heart’s inclinations in their small town where, too often, dreams die quickly. Tennessee Williams’ subtly seductive play centers on the passionately complex and sometimes cruel relationships to which love becomes vulnerable, when we are strong enough to allow it.
The spiritual and physical romance that almost blooms between the two is among the most engaging, romantic, and heartbreaking love stories in Williams’ canon. And certainly director Dana Jackson knows how to follow her instincts to create the most glorious scenes of romantic longing ever witnessed on the stage, thanks in part to the brilliant scenic and lighting design by Kis Knekt and Ken Booth which take us from the town square to inside the two family homes, a rectory, and the small, seedy motel room central to the tale of love and desire. What makes Alma affecting is her courage and refusal to be a victim, her actions carrying out Williams’ conviction that lovemaking is a way to achieve spiritual wholeness, no matter the long-term outcome.
Ginna Carter and Andrew Dits beautifully display the inherent longing between the two characters with Alma willing to say or do whatever it takes to have her spiritual longing fulfilled, while John’s attempt to resist his desire knowing its culmination will turn into heartbreak for Alma, will inevitably ignite a fire that cannot denied.
Along the way, Alma learns to deal with the roadblocks to romance placed in her way, from her senile mother (a most sensitive and honest portrayal by Mary Jo Deschannel) who utters truths at the most innappriate times, to her Reverend father who chastises Alma for her many eccentricities which will make her an outcast in the town, to John’s overbearing mother (Rita Obermeyer, who allows us to see the tale of Oedipus come alive in her desire to create happiness for her only child). Costumes by Christine Cover Ferro perfectly embody each character, from the Reverend’s uptight nature and emotional instability to his wife’s dreamlike state, the domination of spirit and bitterness in Mrs. Buchanan’s life, to the beautiful turn-of-the-century high society clothing worn by Alma and John which so deserves to be torn off their bodies in the heat of passion.
The entire top notch cast includes Ginna Carter, Andrew Dits, Brad Greenquist, Rita Obermeyer, Mary Jo Deschanel, Paul Anderson, Joan Chodorow, Choppy Guillotte, Amy Huntington, and Derek Chariton
THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE by Tennessee Williams runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and at 3pm on Sundays through August 14, 2016. Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA 90291. Tickets are $25 – $34 and can be purchased online at www.pacificresidenttheatre.com or by calling (310) 822-8392. With a running time of almost 3 hours composed of long and detailed conversations about life and love, be prepared to be swept away by the lofty ideals of romantic love and spiritual longing which cannot be denied.