Saturday, January 14, 2012

Period of Adjustment

I was wary about seeing this obscure Tennessee Williams play, but I'm glad I caught Period of Adjustment before it closes at SF Playhouse this weekend. Weirdly, the play is a romantic comedy. The production is cozy, starting with a very cute set depicting a suburban home straight out of a 1950s sitcom. The married couple that inhabits it even sleeps in single beds. It's Christmas Eve, & Ralph, a Korean War vet, receives an impromptu visit from his newlywed army buddy, George. Ralph's wife has just left him, & it looks like George has abandoned his new bride on Ralph's doorstep. Since it's Tennessee Williams, the dialogue has that poetic quality that makes it seem as if the characters are singing instead of talking. And male anxiety about sexual performance is a major theme.

The staging has a streamlined flow & faithfully reproduces the 1950s. The 6 actors, 3 of whom do not even appear until after the intermission, are a good ensemble cast. Johnny Moreno is darkly charismatic as Ralph, & he does not overdo his character's bravado. Patrick Alparone's performance as George is appropriately jittery, & he makes for a good physical contrast with Mr. Moreno. In her brief appearance as George's mother-in-law, Jean Forsman communicates anger & disgust categorically. As George's wife, Maggie Mason only materializes at the very end of the play. She inserts herself smoothly, & her Dorothea is wonderfully self-possessed & unaffected, especially as she delivers the play's final line.

The SF Playhouse is a tight squeeze for both the audience & the stage. I saw a young woman fall to the floor while getting to her seat in the middle of an aisle. People on my side of the theater walked across the stage to get to their seats, & a few of us helped ourselves to the plate of cookies which sat on the prop television downstage.

§ The SF Playhouse

Period of Adjustment
by Tennessee Williams
directed by Bill English

Patrick Alparone, George Haverstick
Jean Forsman, Mrs. McGillicuddy
Joe Madero, Mr. McGillicuddy
Maggie Mason, Dorothea Bates
MacKenzie Meehan, Isabel Haverstick
Johnny Moreno, Ralph Bates

11 January 2012 7pm

§ Production photo: Jessica Palopoli

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