Baby Doll At The Fountain Theatre

October 20, 2016

Baby Doll is an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams film, and it again is a fatiguing portrayal of the Southern, almost backwatered life. Granted, we should be celebratory in the novel perspective; of being brought into a world that is seldom cared for by the largest pursuers of theatrical game in America; that being the Manhattanites and their Broadway compulsive obsession with the New York Life. This criticism is unwarranted then; it is simply a forlorn hope to have requested the now deceased Williams to concern himself with matters that are outside of Antebellum. However, a great dramatist would be able to strike at the heart of the universal condition no matter his preference for setting.

 

Here, because this is not a direct deposit of Williams’ golden words, we must appreciate the technical matters which make for outstanding theatre. The play had excellent set design which carried that complicated balance of overt detail yet without being noisy; fastidious yet remaining simple. And it is relieving that the script was 90 minutes long, which did not make for something taxing; yet it does make for a short night and an inability to express complex
characters.

 

Speaking of which, these characters are not mouth-pieces, nor would we expect them to be in a Williams’ plot. It is, as I have remarked before, an incision into a little unknown world, with its preconceived activity for us to glean. Yet, we must ask ourselves if every common life is worth taking a peak at? Is Baby Doll’s one that is worthy of our attention?

 

In other words, what makes this one particular instance of her life interesting? Yes, there is high-drama with respect to her soon-to-be betrothed and his schemes for creating sustenance. And her own personality defect, of being a simpleton beauty, ruins his ploy. Yet we are not allowed the time to understand the inner nature of each character on set, which does lead to glaring contradictions, most emphatically with the romantic interest of Silva, who tries to both seduce Baby Doll to extract an affidavit from her, while also pursue her for his own gain. While both acts are self-interested, when and where is the line drawn between using her and wanting her for the sake of her? Or is his entire want simply lust? We are simply not allowed to contemplate this sort of tension, of natural human instincts.

 

Likewise, it would have been interesting to witness Baby Doll be frustrated with her own limited cognition; to be self-aware of how slow she is – to even be insecure with this deficit and how she is routinely exploited because of it; this would have made for interesting friction when Silva tried to turn the charm on, as she would find herself resentful of his successful efforts. These little nuances of character and hence plot enable the audience to amplify their own insecurities, or their own instances of self-restraint.

 

No one in the Los Angeles audience could clearly empathize with the assuming antagonist of Archie Lee. He is the stereotypical white racist and misogynist southerner, with a jackass outlandish use of firearms to boot; it is clearly the sorest spot in the four-person cast; to aggrandize the outlandish stereotype on the top of the quote hegemonic pyramid; how routine it is to portray the South with these buffoons, without giving the audience the possibility to imagine the humanity inside of these souls. These humans are reduced to simple cue balls in the script, used to move the story along and nothing else.

 

Which demonstrates, indeed, the painful absence of a Tennessee Williams hand. For academic purposes, it will be useful to study the film this play was based on to learn if Williams himself was patient in allowing real drama to unfold; whereby there are no true villains nor heroes; where each individual has his and her struggles which, when conjoined, help the audience better understand their own condition. And while the direction was pleasingly kinetic, which required long dialogues to be motioned across the gorgeous set, the acting was spotty – much, much too loud without any nuance of range.

 

There was, actually, through the entire play only rage and anger and even bombast expressed. Nothing in between that balanced the outbursts. This is all to say, with this play, there were a few gravels of strength weighed down by heavy stones of the aforementioned weaknesses.

 

Address:
5060 Fountain Ave.Los Angeles, CA 90029

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