How Stella Got Her Groove in the First Place

CSUF dishes up a little-known Tennessee Williams play

Spring Storm was never produced in Tennessee Williams' lifetime. It was written a decade before The Glass Menagerie and, as Williams wrote, "it really is a mess."

It's a mess to be sure, but who wants their theater neat and proper? Who wouldn't rather see a blonde hussy in 1937 Alabama whining and screaming (lots of screaming) that her man is going to leave her? And so is her other man?

Heavenly Critchfield (gorgeous Valorie Curry), scion of five fine but faded southern families, has been carrying on with a river boy since the schoolyard. But then there's this millionaire's son who wants to bang her too, even though he's got no spine (you can tell because he namedrops all the places in Europe he's been to and he likes to talk about books), while she's in lub, lub, lub with the other lunk.

The first act is kind of excruciating, with one of its two scenes taking place on a "bluff," where various characters talk about freedom and wind, and the other scene taking place in the parlor, where Miss Heavenly can feel right sorry for herself that she cain't make the boy whose brains out she's been screwing pay attention to little ol' her. It's like Scarlett and Ashley Wilkes all over again, except Ashley is a mud-slicked oaf. And they're doing it.

The saving grace comes from pulling forth one's own half-forgotten knowledge of Williams' oeuvre and worrying it over like any shiny thing. So this, one might think, is how Stella got her groove in the first place. So this is how she ended up with her mismatched brute. Or, perhaps she'll choose the fey guy. Would her life have been worse or better without Brando raping her sister? And don't even get us started on Glass Menagerie and its spinster women being left on the porch and on the shelf. Williams seems to have had the same themes on his mind for a decade.

What about the one where the children eat the guy? As far as I could tell, Williams wasn't yet working on those themes.

The second act is marvelous, due largely to the talents of two faculty members in the roles of Heavenly's mother and aunt. Rita Renee and Evelyn Carol Case are frankly hilarious, with Renee as the mother doing girlish debutante spins while tripping away from the millionaire's son whom she wants Heavenly to marry (very Tom and Laura's mother), and Case as the spinster aunt delivering more laughs with a deadpan offer of whiskey than the entire glum first act put together.

What ever will happen to our Heavenly hussy? Well, obviously, she'll yell a bunch. After that? When is the last time you saw a Tennessee Williams play with a happy ending? At least nobody gets et.

SPRING STORM, AT CAL STATE FULLERTON'S PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, 800 N. STATE COLLEGE BLVD., FULLERTON, (714) 278-3371. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M. THROUGH NOV. 12. $9.

 
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