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'Nightingale' has focused acting and sensitive direction

April 15, 2011|By Lisa Dupuy
  • Jason Dechert (John Buchanan) and Deborah Puette (Alma Winemiller) in a scene from "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale" produced by A Noise Within. (Photo by Craig Schwartz/Craig Schwartz Photography)
Jason Dechert (John Buchanan) and Deborah Puette (Alma…

Handling the play with the greatest respect for the unique subtleties of the great playwright Tennessee Williams, A Noise Within presents a haunting production of “The Eccentricities of a Nightingale.” Focused acting and sensitive direction are complemented by artistic scenery, lighting and sound.

Similar to Williams’ classics “The Glass Menagerie” and “Streetcar Named Desire,” the lesser-known “Eccentricities of a Nightingale” is the story of an emotionally raw young woman caught in a world that doesn’t understand her. It is a study of unfulfilled dreams and unrequited love, but also personal empowerment.

In keeping with Williams’ tradition of encouraging innovative, expressionistic staging, scenic designer Joel Daavid created a three-dimensional Victorian-era backdrop with turning gears and screens for flickering film images and actors’ silhouettes. The music-hall-era soundtrack adds to the Steampunk feel.

The scenery also suggests an antique bird cage, a fitting setting for the central character, Alma Winemiller (played by Deborah Puette), a socially awkward woman longing for freedom of expression but caught in the cage of a stifling family. It’s classic Williams. Alma falls in love with an aspiring doctor next door, but his mother will have none of it. Alma and the doctor continue to have strange and emotionally prickly rendezvous but their relationship never fully develops. Director Damaso Rodriguez handles the delicate subject matter of this eccentric spinster’s unrequited love with care, and the actors, for the most part, play their parts with depth and controlled emotion.

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The protagonist, Alma Winemiller, played by Deborah Puette, was, for me, a revelation. I did not know the play before seeing this production (it is one of Williams’ lesser-known works) and I had no expectations. At first, Alma was annoying and I thought it was the actress’ fault. In fact, it was the actress’ intention to irritate, just as Alma irritates most of the townsfolk with her peculiarities.

“Your hands fly about you like a pair of wild birds,” declares her exasperated father.

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