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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Eccentricities of a Nightingale

Also see Susan's reviews of The Happy Time and Lord of the Flies

Eccentricities of a Nightingale
Michael Sherman and
Vanessa Bradchulis

The production of Tennessee Williams' The Eccentricities of a Nightingale now at American Century Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, is straightforward and sincere, if not especially exciting. Director Steven Scott Mazzola has given the action a methodical pace, and the performers are giving it a good shot.

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
The Eccentricities of a Nightingale
April 4th 26th
By Tennessee Williams
A Doppelganger/Rosemary: Mary Milben
Reverend Winemiller: Mick Tinder
Mrs. Winemiller: Carol Randolph
John Buchanan: Michael Sherman
Alma Winemiller: Vanessa Bradchulis
Vernon/Porter: Daniel Steinberg
Mrs. Buchanan: Mary-Anne Sullivan
Roger Doremus: Scott Zeigler
Mrs. Bassett: Anne Paine West
Traveling Salesman: Brandon Ferraro
Directed by Steven Scott Mazzola
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: www.americancentury.org


Photo: Micah Hutz


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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