Attention, fans of Tennessee Williams. Though the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival has once again come and gone, you still have time to see the live production of Williams’s The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans at the Sanctuary Cultural Arts Center in the Marigny.
This play, written during the dark, later period of Williams’s life in the early 1960s, shows a parallel between Williams’s suffocating anxiety and the anxiety that plagues the protagonist, Sissy Goforth. Milk Train adopts the genre of “sophisticated fairy-tale,” including symbols like griffins, vampires, and witches. Yet while this play is littered with these mythical allusions, the heart of the play is human, dealing with immensely human issues such as love, acceptance, and hope.
The play follows the last two days in the life of former actress, Flora “Sissy” Goforth (Janet Shea), as she battles a terminal illness while in denial and struggling to complete her memoirs. Living on a mountaintop overlooking the Divina Costiera in Italy, the cold and fierce Goforth, who has for the majority of her life been blinded by her wealth, youth, and power, faces death alone, aside from the company of her employees. Her assistant Blackie, her maid Simonetta, and her bodyguard Rudy, are all she has until a handsome stranger with a mysterious past, Christopher Flanders (Levi Hood), who is also known commonly as “the Angel of Death,” climbs up the mountain with the only wish of caring for the ailing Goforth.
With a cast of only five actors, director Augustine J. Correro has brilliantly taken one of Williams’s lesser-known plays and created a fantastic version of the underrated work. Borrowing conventions from Japanese theater, with Hindu and Buddhist connotations scattered throughout the production, it is only fitting that the three stage assistants form a hybrid of Japanese kabuki-style stage assistants and a Greek chorus. They introduce the play as well as themselves, explaining to the audience that they are both stage assistants and actors, and while they are in costume, the actors “will seem not to notice them.”
Wonderfully directed, beautifully designed, and with a talented cast, Correro’s version of Milk Train deserves a great review. The power with which the actors perform and portray Williams’s original image of the characters is spectacular. I would recommend seeing this play to anyone who has an appreciation and love of theater.
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore runs through Sunday, April 2 at the Sanctuary Cultural Arts Center at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.twtheatrenola.com or by calling the Box Office at (504) 264-2580.