BWW Reviews: HIDDEN TENNESSEE is a Hidden Treasure

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Tennessee Williams is best known for his plays like The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, however, Portland Stage Company has masterfully brought together four of his lesser known works in a show that must be experienced.

Hidden Tennessee is a production of three short plays and a short story, which bring Williams's stylistic poetism and fragility to the stage.

In This Property Is Condemned, a 13-year-old girl reveals intimate details of her squalid life to a young boy with delusional remembrances of things past, as he struggles with a secret he knows about her.

Influential poet and author Harold Hart Crane and his mother, Grace, confront each other after years of bitter estrangement in Steps Must Be Gentle.

The Field of Blue Children deals with the restless emotionality of youth in which the desperate search for identity and companionship can lead to unexpected and troublesome actions.

Set in rural Mississippi, The Long Stay Cut Short, or, The Unsatisfactory Supper, explores the loss of dignity that comes with old age.

Director Sally Wood does a brilliant job with each piece, creating a solid foundation for the actors to bring Williams's words to life. With each piece, Wood takes us on an emotional ride, carving out beautiful pictures and subtle nuances that embrace your imagination and hearT. Wood's direction especially shines in This Property Is Condemned, which is worth the price of admission.

All four actors in Hidden Tennessee were stellar and created the perfect cast. All the actors gave of themselves and to each other, creating the perfect blend of ensemble. Sarah Lord's performance as Willie in This Property Is Condemned was Broadway worthy. I could not take my eyes off Lord, with every sound, every physicality just perfect. Justin Adams played several characters and effortlessly transformed from one to the other. His solid vocal and physical choices enhanced every role. Courtney Moors, sadly scarce in act one, took a strong hold of her stage time in act two, bringing a solid punch to The Long Stay Cut Short, or, The Unsatisfactory Supper. Local favorite, Maureen Butler, gave a powerhouse performance as Grace in Steps Must Be Gentle followed by her heart wrenching portrayal of elderly Aunt Rose in The Long Stay Cut Short, or, The Unsatisfactory Supper.

Set designer Anita Stewart has captured all four pieces with ingenious creativity. From the never ending railroad tracks to the magical ocean floor of distorted water, to a uplifted shotgun cabin, Stewart transports us with color and texture. Lighting designer Bryon Winn complimented every moment with the perfect combination of color, focus and intensity. Winn's whispering blue flowers must be experienced. Sound designer Shannon Zura brought just the right balance of content and volume to each piece, rather it be the pounding of an old typewriter or the musical enhancement of a scene. Costume designer Kathleen Brown created an appropriate mix of period costumes, embellishing them with simple accents that complimented Wood's vision. Brown's dress choice for actress Lord in This Property Is Condemned was just perfect and spoke volumes with its layers, color and aging distress.

Stage manager Myles C. Hatch runs a smooth show with effortless scene changes. It was so nice to see the stage hands costumed, becoming part of the show, adding to the atmosphere, in what can be a thankless job.

The entire production is beautifully weaved together as each cast member embodies the symbolic tweed coat and drink of Williams, celebrating his past, present and what would become his future.

Portland Stage Company, once again, gives us great, professional theater that stimulates, educates and emotionally transports us. Don't miss it!

Hidden Tennessee continues at Portland Stage Company,25A Forest Ave, Portland through March 18. For tickets call 774-0465 or go to portlandstage.org.

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From This Author Michael Tobin

Michael J. Tobin has been an actor, director, educator and theater administrator for the past 30 years in theaters throughout Maine, New Hampshire, New England (read more...)

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