As an avid admirer of playwright Tennessee Williams, I was excited to attend the Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of a “new” Williams play. The author was noted for revising even his finished works, and this Baby Doll is the latest version (by Emily Mann and Pierre Laville from 2015) of the two one-act plays which were expanded into Williams’ screenplay for the notorious 1956 film.
As with A Streetcar Named Desire it’s sometimes difficult for stage productions to avoid associations with a definitive film version, but after the first few minutes of ETC’s Baby Doll, that was not a problem. The four-member cast made each of the contrasting characters their own (and were often called upon for some strenuously physical acting, the crumbling attic scene!), Under the fluid direction of Jenny Sullivan, casting, an atmospheric setting (complete with Spanish moss), and the subtle use of incidental music all came together to evoke the unique, elusive, and sometimes unsettling Williams fusion of sensuality, comedy, and pathos.
Kudos to everyone involved in this brilliant and entertaining production.