There isn’t too much heat being generated over at the Laura Pels Theatre where the Roundabout’s bland revival of Tennessee Williams’ rickety three time flop (twice on stage once as a movie) The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore starring Olympia Dukakis as an old, sickly, rich, drug addicted, controlling eccentric and still looking to share her bed with a young gigolo while dictating her memoirs will be running through April 3rd.
In fact there is a squall a brewing as you enter the theatre and the gauze draperies flutter in the wind with sounds of waves crashing on the coast of Italy’s Divina Costiera and sea gulls sounding like the harbinger of death who actually arrives a bit later as Christopher Flanders (Darren Pettie) the Angel of Death – a well built man who somehow shows up at the doorsteps of rich old ladies to help them go forth into the next life and help him publish his poetry and enable him to be a freeloader extraordinaire and construct mobiles.
Here he attempts to help Flora “Sissy” Goforth (Olympia Dukakis) do just that with his charm and chatter. She however has buried four husbands and has been around the block so to speak and is skeptical when he arrives unannounced – dogs nipping at his heels so that he is in need of a shower so that we get a brief glimpse of him naked.
Unfortunately Mr. Pettie looks haggard and generates little chemistry as he woos Flora, her icy secretary Blackie (Maggie Lacey) who has recently lost her husband and the Witch of Capri – here played to the hilt by Edward Hibbert as a bitchy old queen.
Usually played by a woman it makes complete sense for director Michael Wilson’s daring choice. In fact, there is so much of the real Tennessee Williams in the character of Sissy that one wonders if because of the restrictions of gay life back in 1962 when this play was written that the character of Sissy is indeed a not so thinly veiled version of Mr. Williams – an old addicted homosexual afraid of dying alone lurking just beneath the surface of Flora. Can you imagine if he had written the part as an aging homosexual?
But I digress. Ms. Dukakis goes full throttle with a thick Southern drawl that goes in an out like the tide popping pills and swilling cognac and longing for one last lover. She sometimes looks like Norma Desmond and her scene with Hibbert reminds one of an Auntie Mame and Vera Charles bitch fest. And done up in full Geisha drag she does a mean fan dance. But all in all it’s not a very good play.
Despite the decent work done by everyone involved including the servants (Curtis Billings & Elisa Bocanegra) you cannot get blood from a stone.
Photo: Joan Marcus
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