Period of Adjustment
Period of Adjustment is just that for two Tennessee-based couples shortly after the conclusion of the Korean War. Sweet Isabel (Rebecca Brooksher) has just married loud George (C.J. Wilson), who now has fairly severe hand and arm tremors but does not have a great deal of first act time on stage. Isabel, deposited at the suburban Memphis home of Ralph and Dorothea Bates, spends much of the first act in conversation with Ralph. It is Christmas Eve and she is consistently fretting. Isabel, for whom one sympathizes, is delightfully Southern, touching, and pretty. She is also emotional and flighty. Ralph is just a tad apoplectic that Dorothea has taken off with their young son.
It takes some time for George and Dorothea to appear together. Meanwhile, it becomes all too obvious that the war buddies, Ralph and George, like to drink. Dorothea (Anney Giobbe) is fully aware that Ralph married her for financial security, in this case a position working for her father. Ralph, though, just quit. The marriage between Ralph and Dorothea is clearly in trouble. Isabel and George each suspect that theirs, too, might not work out.
The play is said to be one of Williams' lighter and even comic works. A period piece, it feels dated and it isn't all that amusing. If this were one of the masterful writer's early scripts, it would be in order to praise it for structure and character. It was actually composed, however, in 1960 after many of his now classic dramas were on Broadway. Period of Adjustment is, in comparison, minor.
Unhappy people fill the play. Rounding out the cast as Dorothea's parents, actors Mark Corkins and Mia Dillon are not especially pleasant. What to make of this entire scenario? One must compliment Williams, director Auburn, and designer R. Michael Miller for capturing time and place quite accurately. The dwelling is well-worn and that is most fitting. It perfectly suits the occasion.
Williams has otherwise brought us memorable characters such as Stanley, Blanche and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire; Amanda and Laura in The Glass Menagerie; Alma in Summer and Smoke; and Maggie and Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In comparison, those who comprise Period of Adjustment are not nearly as gripping, enticing, unusual or alluring.
Not a whole lot happens within the play; the plot is not driven forward. There might be justification if exquisite dialogue carried the action. Williams' literal words ring true as does the interface among characters. The impact, though, is linear.
To his credit, the playwright surely captures the epochal implications of the 1950s and American culture after the war in Korea. That era, as represented her, seems terribly empty and wanting.
Period of Adjustment continues on the main stage at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts through September 3rd. For ticket information, call (413) 298-5576 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org.
- Fred Sokol