Walpole Footlighters' second show of their 91st season is the classic drama "Summer and Smoke." It is a two act show written in 1948 by Tennessee Williams. The show is set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi and is about the preacher's daughter, Alma Winemiller always doing the right thing, taking in voice students and taking care of her mentally ill mother. In the summer of 1916, Alma's next-door neighbor and childhood acquaintance Dr. John Buchanan Jr. returns home for a visit. John is the exact opposite of Alma, enjoying a hedonistic existence of drinking and gambling, but is oddly intrigued by Alma's struggle to maintain a clear conscience and control her nervous fits. As Alma sets about trying to cure John's wayward behavior with a series of desperate attempts, she wrestles with her own blossoming sexuality and the temptations of earthly desires. Her name means soul in Spanish while the doctor is interested in a soulless anatomy chart are two of the ways they are different. However as time goes by their positions seem to change and we witness these startling changes in a dramatic fashion. Not until the end does the doctor realize that the girl's high idealism is right, and while she is still in love with him, it seems time and circumstances will allow them to come together. Director Marianne Phinney casts these roles wonderfully and blends the dramatic and comic moments together for the audience to enjoy all night long.
Marianne designed the unit set of two houses with a fountain in the center. Of prime importance is the angel which is always lit over the fountain, watching over the people of the town. Excellent lighting is done by her son, Tony Liapis especially effective is the opening fireworks. "Summer and Smoke" isn't Williams best known work. He started to write it after "Glass Menagerie" premiered on Broadway. As Marianne states in her director's note "Alma and John are both people we can recognize. Alma is conscious of her status as a minister's daughter and worries about how people in town will view her. John wants to break free of the strictures of Glorious Hill and the expectation that he will follow in his father's footsteps as a doctor''. Playing the huge role of Alma is Emily Loflin. She plays this nervous young woman to the hilt, capturing her insecurities about sexuality and observing propriety. Emily also makes the transition in the second act after Alma's illness to going after what she wants only to find out it's slipped out of her hands. Playing the sexually active young doctor is Peter McElhinney. He delivers his enormous amount of dialogue splendidly. The doctor likes to date several girls at the same time, gamble and carouse. Emily and Peter play this mismatched couple beautifully.
Portraying her parents are Woody Farrick and Barbara Schapiro. They are excellent as the minister and his mentally unbalanced wife who likes to smoke and eat ice cream all the time. Barbara is a hoot especially when she makes inappropriate remarks and steals a hat with plumes on it. Other standouts include Holly Kapinos who plays Nellie, Alma's voice student who grows from a teenager into a sophisticated college student during the course of the show, George Motley as John's father is funny when he swears in front of Alma and later on has a very dramatic moment in the second act that wakes his son up at last, Ninette Cummings as a busybody who stirs up trouble for Alma and John, and Jessica Corey as the Mexican vamp, Rosa who lusts after John. So for an entertaining dramatic show with a great deal of comic moments along the way, be sure to catch "Summer and Smoke" at Walpole Footlighters.