Resident Theatre has celebrated its 30th anniversary by mounting a first-class
production of THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE, Tennessee Williams
revision of his 1950s play, Summer and Smoke. Williams has
said that he preferred Eccentricities over Summer and
Smoke because it is less conventional and melodramatic.
He also added that Alma Winemiller is his favorite character.
around Alma (vigorous, lustrous performance by Ginna Carter) is a more
active character, fighting hard to win the heart of her girlhood crush,
Dr. John Buchanan (Andrew Dits). The handsome young man has just returned
to Glorious Hill, Mississippi, shortly before W W 1, after having graduated
from John Hopkins.
In Summer and Smoke, John is the catalytic force, keen on
introducing the timid, virginal Alma to the pleasures of the flesh. This
time around though its Alma who wants to bed John, even though she
knows he doesnt love her the way she loves him. Alma might be nervous,
excitable and eccentric when it comes time for her to sing in public,
but she can always find the strength to stand up to John, even challenge
him. She is also able to laugh at her own foibles.
John is made of softer stuff, putty in the hands of his domineering and
snobbish mother (Rita Obermeyer). She wants her golden boy to marry an
elegant, upper-class girl, not the frumpy daughter of the Reverend Winemiller
(Brad Greenquist), who is not only poor and dour but has a batty mother
in the attic (Mary Jo Deschanel).
To his credit, John treats Alma with respect and affection, having long
recognized what a special kind of person she is, highly strung but deeply
feeling and intelligent. Williams writes about them with delicacy and
understanding, particularly in the plays key scene, when Alma persuades
John to take her to a seedy hotel room. The way Williams probes character,
deals with the many sides of their intense, complicated relationship,
is remarkable, the work of a master playwright.
in ECCENTRICITIES is on the muted, underplayed side, but there are flashes
of humor, especially in the scene where Alma and a handful of fellow-art
lovers meet to discuss a William Blake poem and collaborate on a manifesto.
Williams satire of these genteel, pretentious but well-meaning folk
is both sharp and funny.
Director Dana Jackson deserves high praise for having put together this
well-acted, finely-wrought production of Williams worthy play.
(Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd. 310-822-8392 or pacificresidenttheatre.com)