Friday, July 29, 2016


Lindsay LaVanchy
Photo by Ed Krieger
Even in the relative cool of the funky little Fountain Theatre, the heat from four actors, each in his/her own little zone of Tennessee Williams, is palpable.  Opening night for the stage version of 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Williams' expanded one act adapted by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann from Williams' screenplay, Baby Doll, under the steady hand of Simon Levy doles out expected passion on Jeffrey MacLaughlin's Mississippi Delta set. A familiar iron crib holds woman child, Baby Doll (Lindsay LaVanchy) as she strikes the familiar Carroll Baker pose made famous in Elia Kazan's movie of the same name.  It's the eve of Baby Doll's twentieth birthday and she has somehow gotten married to the older and tougher Archie Lee (John Prosky) who at rise is sawing a peep hole through the wall of the dilapidated old manse where they are sinking into financial ruin. 
The thing about being steeped in Tennessee Williams right now is that the power and dilapidation of his scenarios and his characters: tough and vulnerable; strong and sexy; troubled and aggressive as well as morally questionable, like characters from Commedia, we recognize Blanche and Stanley, Big Daddy and Brick, Maggie the Cat.. and then enjoy how the story evolves with thick southern accents and broad strokes.  There's nothing subtle about this one.  Karen Kondazian as Aunt Rose Comfort is seasoning for the gumbo.  Pixilated and homeless, her efforts to stay on board with Archie and Baby Doll are endearing.  The main course for all the heat is, of course, the arrival, with riding crop in hand, of Daniel Bess as Silva Vacarro. Vacarro's cotton gin is the unfortunate victim of an arson fire, the source of which we all know. The dance of seduction between Silva and Baby Doll is obvious and inevitable. 
The romance of Williams' words in and of themselves is seductive. When Baby Doll invites Silva to take a nap, apologizing for the size of her iron crib, he smiles and  says, "Any flat surface is suitable for slumber."  And,  the predictability of the plot moves quickly and assuredly thanks to Levy's decisive hand.  Bombast and seduction, a theme for Williams from time to time. That's what  this one is all about.  It's a must see for those who love the heat. 

By Tennessee Williams
Adapted for the stage from his screenplay by
Pierre Laville and Emily Mann

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90029
Through September 25, 2016
Tickets and Information
323 663 1525

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