Years ago, an admirer gave me roses and a CD of romantic arias. He pledged his love to me. It was probably the most romantic moment of my life. What did I do about it? Nothing! The adoration surprised and overwhelmed me. So, I thanked him and went out of my way to avoid him... forever. Hmmmm What if? The Den Theatre presents SUMMER AND SMOKE. The Reverend’s daughter is an uptight spinster. The doctor’s son is a smooth-talking philanderer. Summer heats up! The sexual tension sizzles. They both have the hots for each other. What’s the problem? It’s 1916 and it’s lady’s choice. She chooses to abstain. And he moves on to the next gal. Hmmmm What if? SUMMER AND SMOKE is a conventional lust story that shows growth.
Tennessee Williams published SUMMER AND SMOKE in 1948. It followed after his famous creation, “Streetcar Named Desire.” So not surprisingly, there is a strong Blanche Dubois vibe with the lead. Eve Rydberg (Alma) is buttoned-up delightful. Rydberg’s diction is affected and nervous. The object of her pent-up sexual frustration is Josh Odor (John). Odor flirts with an unapologetic aggression. The Rydberg and Odor seduction arouses heat and humor. Rydberg goes prudish. Odor goes prowling. He discovers the sexy Cheyenne Pinson (Rosa). The Odor and Pinson chemistry is no laughing matter. It’s steamy.
Scenic Designer Mike has created a pie-shaped stage. It’s diorama-stic! In between the minister’s house and the doctor’s house is a courtyard with a fountain. Director Ryan Martin stages the action in each of these sets and in front of them. This cool set-up choice seems under-utilized. Multiple black-outs seem unnecessary and clunky. Using the space more effectively with limited black-outs and continuous movement in each house throughout the show would make for seamless transitions. Within the scenes, Martin paces it tight. Under his direction, the entire ensemble supports this spinster’s coming-of-age story.
This was The Den’s second production and my first experience. I was impressed with the quality of the production and adjoining lounge space for such a fairly new company. I’d recommend seeing SUMMER AND SMOKE at The Den. As a modern-day spinster, I found the ending especially satisfying and the ambiance particularly welcoming.
Having seen all The Den productions, Rick describes the show with 'steamy, hot broken.'
Running Time: Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission
At The Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd Floor
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Ryan Martin
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru October 29th