New Monitor review of Williams’ “steamy” play

Steamy Williams play at Hilberry

By Robert Delaney

Read original article here.

The love of a minister’s straight-laced daughter for the wastrel son of her doctor neighbor takes a surprising turn in Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke,” the latest production of Wayne State University’s Hilberry Repertory Theatre.

Written in the late 1940s, but set in a Gulf Coast Mississippi town in 1916, the play has emotional temperatures running as high as those registered on the wall thermometer of a deep-South veranda.

Director Lionel Walsh draws on his own experience of going to grad school in the hot and humid American South to help his cast of WSU grad student actors strike the right note in this production.

Lorelei Sturm, as Alma Winemiller, and Andrew Papa, as John Buchanan Jr., lead this fine cast.

Papa is especially convincing in both his initial dissolute persona and as the reformed character he becomes.

Sturm doesn’t evince quite so wide a degree of outward change as her inner change, although that might well be justified by the more constrained roles deemed acceptable for a cultured young lady of that time.

Vanessa Sawson is quite convincing as Rosa Gonzales, the hot Mexican girl who is John’s partner in debauchery, as is Edmund Alyn Jones as her drunken and violent father.

Megan Dobbertin’s Nellie is a sweet Southern belle.

Peter Schmidt’s set works very well for this production, although the stone angel of the central fountain is positively strange looking. Seemingly out-of-proportion for such an angel, if its head were any larger, one would think the play was set on Easter Island.

But John D. Woodland’s costumes seem spot on, and Samuel G. Byers’ lighting design allows us to see everything very well — which is not always true of Hilberry productions.

Those who love Tennessee Williams’ plays should like this production, and those who don’t really know them should find this a good introduction to this important 20th-century American playwright.

SHOW DETAILS: “Summer and Smoke” continues in rotating repertory through April 21 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus in Detroit’s Midtown area. For performance and ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.

Show times

Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Friday, March 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Friday, March 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Friday, April 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm
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