Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Eccentricities of a Nightingale
Williams wrote Eccentricities of a Nightingale as a reworking of his 1948 play Summer and Smoke, although the second play did not premiere in New York until 1964. While the plays have the same leading characters and a similar dramatic situation, Eccentricities takes the human drama in a different direction.
In Glorious Hill, Mississippi, in 1915, Alma Winemiller (Vanessa Bradchulis) is a high-strung voice teacher and singer who lives with her father, the town's Episcopal priest (Mick Tinder), and her emotionally disturbed mother (Carol Randolph). Next door, the young doctor John Buchanan (Michael Sherman) lives with his overprotective mother (Mary-Anne Sullivan) and his unseen father, also a doctor. The dramatic tension comes from the interplay between John's lust for human experience and Alma's desire for transcendence and love, complicated by their families' expectations and responsibilities.
Bradchulis has a difficult role in that Alma with her self-dramatization, her breathy laugh, her constantly racing mind and emotions must not alienate the audience. She does a good job of showing the character's many sides as Alma progresses from frustration to world-weary resolution. (Mazzola's addition of Mary Milben as Alma's "doppelganger," expressing through song the things the character can't say, is rather heavy-handed and less successful.)
Sherman does well depicting a young man who believes he is more cynical and confident than he is. Tinder demonstrates the caring beneath Rev. Winemiller's stern façade, while Randolph shows the sadness at the root of her character's mental disturbance.
Scenic designer Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden and scenic artist Elizabeth Baldwin have created an environmental set centering around a roofed octagonal platform, which becomes by turns a gazebo, a parlor and a hotel room, and a fountain topped by a seven-foot-tall statue of an angel. (The design of the statue is a little awkward for scenes in which characters have to drink from the fountain.)
American Century Theater