Feb. 06, 2013 - Issue #903: Moment by moment
Summer and Smoke
How often do we hold back our true selves, allowing an incomplete version of our personas to be on display, while struggling against our doppelgänger, the other side itching to break free?
Alma Winemiller, the central character at the midst of Summer and Smoke, regarded by some critics as one of Tennessee Williams' finest works, knows this all too well. Set in 1916 in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, Winemiller, a refined and reserved woman, falls for her childhood friend, the rebellious Dr John Buchanan. From here, Williams focuses on the romance that nearly blossoms between them and the shift in their personalities and values that upsets it all.
"If you watch the play closely, you'll recognize that all of the characters are incomplete in some way or another," says director Mary-Ellen Perley, who is making her directorial debut at Walterdale. "You'll recognize that all of the characters are incomplete in some way or another and that's a very fascinating thing about the play—and it's a very character-driven play. It's about the struggles that Alma Winemiller and Dr John Buchanan have in coming to know and understand themselves, their inner selves."
Buchanan frequently suggests to Winemiller that she possesses a doppelgänger of her own, and a completely different side of her begins to emerge as the story progresses, transforming her into someone barely recognizable as the woman she once was. Perley suggests that this notion comes from Williams, or TW as he has affectionately become known by the cast and crew, simply observing life and the human condition, acknowledging that accepting and allowing our true selves to come through is a frightening concept for people, whether it be in 1916 or 2013.
"It may be something that, because of our upbringing, the social milieu in which we live, the people that are near and dear to us coming to terms with and exposing our 'inner selves' is something that we may be frightened about doing because it may not be accepted or acceptable," says Perley, a retired drama and English teacher who, without regretting her years in the classroom, admits her inner doppelgänger was someone who loved and wanted to be involved in theatre in as many facets as possible, which she's now doing.
"Tennessee Williams knew that only too well. He was gay in a time when being gay was something that was not recognized or society didn't know about it, and he struggled with that and he struggled with coming out about it, so he understood at a very deep level that doppelgänger, that other self one may need to recognize, acknowledge and give that opportunity to blossom."
Until Sat, Feb 16 (8 pm)
Directed by Mary-Ellen Perley
Walterdale Playhouse, $12 – $18 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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