BlackBag Productions’ 2004-05 season continues with
“Period of Adjustment,” a dark comedy written by
Tennessee Williams. The relatively unknown script by the canonized
playwright is loaded with stage and acting direction, but this
hasn’t stopped director Lynch Travis from leaving his imprint
on the production.

Travis, who has worked with The Performance Network in Ann Arbor
and The Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, is better known for his
acting but reveals his obvious talent for directing here. The
polished ensemble perfectly executes one scene in which two new
lovers confess their nervousness at the forefront of the stage
while, simultaneously, their long-married friends speak of the
future in their bedroom upstage.

The play is set in a post-World War II suburb of identical
“Spanish style cottages.” One unhappy homeowner, Ralph
(Matt Pinnard), is a knowing, gentle and ethically rooted man,
perfectly suited for the job of comforting the new bride of his war
buddy George, since George drank through his wedding night. The
innocence his bride (Courtney Myers) gives her character is tender,
while her Southern accent is authentic.

The audience is almost sorry George treats her so poorly. All
three have recently become unemployed, and Ralph’s wife has
run off and taken their son while the boy’s Christmas
presents sit sadly under the tree. But the audience is not sorry,
because it is consistently made to laugh at these untimely
misfortunes.

Aside from the comedy, the show is easy and enjoyable to watch.
A fur coat Ralph bought for his wife becomes the symbol of his
devotion to her. The audience can sense its warmth and watch
characters fight over it. Similarly, the damage of war is made
visible in George’s tremors. Russ Hedberg strains his body to
express the neurological state of his guarded character. He shakes
from his entrance to the final curtain and even more so at moments
of great stress.

One of those moments is the climactic scene in which
Ralph’s in-laws and wife barge in; they try to reclaim her
valuables, she tries to reclaim Ralph. Supporting actors Marty
Smith and Linda Hammill make brief, but solid appearances as the
parents, and the audience can sense the upheaval of Ralph’s
domestic existence in this palpably crowded scene. Ralph’s
wife Dottie (Kathleen Orr) remains on stage, and her skilled
performance explains why Ralph loves her.

Engineering graduate student Joshua Parker built a remarkable
set that adds to the performance. Ralph Bates’s cottage is
built so that the audience can view both the common TV room and the
private bedroom. Actors can go “outside” into the cold
of Christmas Eve by the front door or window.

The show is a pleasure to watch and very well done. The cast and
crew put in a good performance as did Tennessee Williams, who
created this touching and funny script.

 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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