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BWW Review: BABY DOLL at McCarter Theatre Center


Tennessee Williams's Baby Doll was thoroughly enjoyable in its opening night performance at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton on Friday, September 18. The play, adapted for the stage by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann, and directed by Mann, wove together the themes of deception and innocence with a great deal of artistry. The cat-and-mouse and hide-and-seek games portrayed in the show maintained the nuances of the characters and the false pretenses for their actions during the one-act, ninety minute production.

Susannah Hoffman was exceptional in the title role of Baby Doll, an almost 20-year-old who has only two days left before fulfilling a promise to consummate her marriage with her disheveled, alcoholic husband Archie Lee Meighan (Robert Jay). With a Marilyn Monroe-esque appeal, Hoffman demonstrated an amusing and sometimes sympathetic charm, as she fought off Archie's sexual advances. Yet, she was not repelled by the romantic approach of her neighbor, Silva Vaccarro (Dylan McDermott.)

Archie's condescending and demeaning treatment of Baby Doll was underscored by the exaggerated emphasis that was relevant to his whereabouts on the night that Vaccarro's cotton gin was destroyed by arson. His arm-twisting reminder to Baby Doll that he spent that night at home, coupled with his wife-slapping persona, reinforced his disrespectful attitude.

Archie's degradation of Baby Doll made Vaccarro's wooing of her all the more attractive, even though his technique would be hooted down by even the shyest of today's teenagers. McDermott was convincing as a neighbor seeking justice and as a suitor, and he engineered his slyness with skill. The boy meets girl model has a duplicitous twist, just as Vaccarro corners Baby Doll in the attic. Baby Doll's Aunt Rose Comfort (Patricia Conolly) complemented the cast with her lilt and her pretense for visiting friends in the hospital. Misrepresentation was a thread to be seen throughout Baby Doll. But the themes of hope and hopelessness were also ever-present in the show.

The set design, lighting, and sound effects gave the appearance of the Mississippi Delta. You felt you were there, especially when hearing crickets and mourning doves. The costumes fit the characters, down to the slip whose style later got its name for the lead character who wore it.

Baby Doll will entertain you. See it. You'll enjoy it.

Cast of characters (in order of speaking): Baby Doll: Susannah Hoffman; Archie Lee Meighan: Robert Jay; Aunt Rose Comfort: Patricia Conolly; Silva Vaccarro: Dylan McDermott; Sheriff: Brian McCannSet and lighting design: Edward Pierce; costume design: Susan Hilferty; sound design: Darron West; dialect coach: Thom Jones; fight director: Samantha Bellomo; casting director: Tara Rubin Casting; associate artistic director: Adam Immerwahr; production stage manager: Cheryl Mintz.

Director of Production: David York; managing director: Timothy J. Shields.

Baby Doll is playing at the McCarter Theater Centre, located at 91 University Place, Princeton, NJ, through October 11. Ticket information can be found at or by calling the Box Office at 609-258-2787.

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

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