Christopher Abbott and Marisa Tomei in The Rose Tattoo at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Photograph © T Charles Erickson.

The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, closing July 17

Tennessee Williams, who was close to forty when The Rose Tattoo opened on Broadway in February 1951, had already enjoyed major success with three plays, and had won a Pulitzer, the first of two, for A Streetcar Named Desire. The Rose Tattoo earned him his first Tony. It rather swept them up, as the scenic designer, Boris Aronson, and the two lead actors, Maureen Stapleton and Eli Wallach, also won Tonys. This was a big moment for all of them—certainly a milestone in Williams’ career. Yet, when the director of the current production, Trip Cullman, says, in an interview published in the program, that The Rose Tattoo “doesn’t occupy the same place in the canon as The Glass Menagerie, or A Streetcar Named Desire, or even Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” we can accept it readily enough. Cullman envisioned his task as revealing its greatness. Indeed, the play hasn’t been revived very often. All the more credit to Mr. Cullman and to Mandy Greenfield, the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Artistic Director, for taking on the challenge and for realizing its greatness with such brilliance—an extremely difficult task, I’d say, first because of Williams’ mercurial, almost indecisive shifting from pathos to comedy and back again, and secondly because of the problems involved in depicting Italian-American characters and life not only on stage, but in fiction and in film.

Touch(ed) by Bess Wohl, directed by Trip Cullman, Williamstown Theatre Festival, August 3-14, 2011

Touch(ed) is a terrifically effective and well-constructed play by a young actress and playwright who has managed to gather an impressive amount of experience in some very good places: after Harvard College and the Yale School of Drama, she has spent four previous seasons at the Williamstown Theatre Company. Director Trip Cullman [third WTF season] is a Yale School of Drama graduate, as is Emily Rebholz, costume designer. Andromache Chalfant hails from Tisch, and actor Michael Chernus [second WTF season] from Juilliard. There was a tightness and consistency about the various elements of this show that made me wonder about the connections among the principal creative forces. There is something seriously encouraging about such a successful creation coming from top Northeastern schools. It doesn’t always happen.

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