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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

McCarter Theatre Center opens 2015/2016 season with Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll


Babydoll POSTER

Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll was condemned in its time for its tale of commercial and erotic vengeance. Now, a new adaptation of Williams’ 1956 film masterpiece makes its American premiere at McCarter Theatre Center complete with Williams’ trademark mix of dark comedy, murky motivations, and sexual electricity.
Times are tough in the Mississippi Delta, where cotton is king and the summer heat drives desires of every kind. Baby Doll (Susannah Hoffman) is about to celebrate her 20th birthday, and in doing so must finally consummate her marriage to Archie Lee (Robert Joy), a much older man whose worldview is as rotten and decrepit as the crumbling house in which they live with Aunt Rose Comfort (Patricia Conolly). A suspicious fire at a rival (and more successful) cotton gin brings Silva Vacarro (Dylan McDermott) to call, and his visit ignites an explosive game of cat-and-mouse where what happens next is anyone’s guess. 

The original screenplay of Baby Doll was created by Williams using elements from two of his previous one-act plays – 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and The Long Stay Cut Short (or The Unsatisfactory Supper) – and was directed by Elia Kazan, garnering both praise (four Oscar Nominations) and condemnation for its scintillating subject matter upon its release in 1956.

French theatre writer, adaptor, and director Pierre Laville wrote a new adaptation of Baby Doll which premiered to critical praise in Paris at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in 2009. Laville, having worked as a translator of Emily Mann’s work on numerous occasions, suggested she adapt the piece for an American audience. Mann, having directed a number of other major Tennessee Williams’ productions in the past, began the process of shaping Baby Doll anew by streamlining the story and pacing. A reading of the Laville/Mann adaptation was featured as part of McCarter’s Lab Series in January of 2015.
About the production, Director/co-Adaptor Emily Mann said: “Tennessee (Williams) is one of our greats. I’ve directed many of his plays, including The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Baby Doll is another glorious Williams creation. Funny, erotic and dangerous - it's a love story, but it's also about the awakening of a young woman - both in terms of her sexuality and her own agency.”

The cast includes Patricia Conolly (Aunt Rose Comfort), Susannah Hoffman (Baby Doll), Robert Joy (Archie Lee), Brian McCann (Sheriff), and Dylan McDermott (Silva Vacarro).

Patricia Conolly (Aunt Rose Comfort) began her stage career in Australia and has performed in England in the West End, and on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in US regional theaters, including Guthrie Theater, Hartford Stage Company, Old Globe Theatre, Arena Stage, and Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Susannah Hoffman (Baby Doll) makes her McCarter Debut, having performed with numerous companies and regional theatres along the east coast, including Baltimore’s CenterStage (William Inge’s Bus Stop) and NYC’s Empirical Rogue.

Robert Joy (Archie Lee) McCarter: Indians (Buffalo Bill) in 1991. Mr. Joy has appeared in over 200 episodes and TV movies, most recently: Masters of Sex, Grey’s Anatomy, The Mentalist, The Good Wife, Defiance, and Hand of God. For eight seasons he portrayed medical examiner Sid Hammerback, on CSI:NY. Broadway: Side Show, The Nerd, Hay Fever, Shimada, Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Film: Atlantic City, Ragtime, Desperately Seeking Susan, Fallen, Resurrection, The Hills Have Eyes, The Shipping News, and Radio Days, among others.

Brian McCann (Sheriff) makes his McCarter debut. He has previously appeared at numerous regional theatres in and around the Philadelphia area, including Walnut Street Theatre, Arden Theatre Co., Lantern Theater, Penn. Shakespeare Festival, and many more.

Dylan McDermott (Silva Vacarro) happily returns to McCarter where he played Tom in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (Dir.: Emily Mann, 1991).  Theater: Nicky Silver's Three Changes (Playwrights Horizon), Golden Boy (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Rebel Armies Deep into Chad (Long Wharf), Biloxi Blues (Broadway). Three with playwright Eve Ensler: The Treatment, Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man, and Scooncat (Samuel Beckett Theatre). Film: Hamburger Hill, Steel Magnolias, Miracle on 34th Street, In the Line of Fire, Home for the Holidays, The Perks of Being a Wall Flower, Olympus has Fallen, The Campaign. TV: Dark Blue, Hostages (both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer); Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story. Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of defense attorney Bobby Donnell on ABC’s hit The Practice. Education: Fordham, The Neighborhood Playhouse (with Sanford Meisner). Member: The Actor's Studio.

The creative/design team for Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll is a collection of artists at the top of their creative games. Scenic and Lighting Designer Edward Pierce, whose Broadway credits include Wicked, Billy Elliot, 9 to 5, and Pippin (just to name a few) returns to McCarter after designing for last season’s Antony & Cleopatra and Five Mile  Lake. Tony Award-winning (Peter and the Starcatcher) Sound Designer Darron L. West returns to McCarter for his eighth production, which have included such McCarter hits as Into the Woods and Crowns. Costume Designer Susan Hilferty has created works for more than 300 productions around the world, including such McCarter productions as August Wilson’s Radio Golf and Athol Fugard’s Valley Song. Noted Philadelphia-based Fight Choreographer Samantha Bellomo and Dialect coach Thom Jones round out the design/creative team.

About Tennessee Williams (Playwright)

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) got his first taste of literary fame as a teenager when he took third place in a national essay contest sponsored by The Smart Set magazine in 1927. In 1929, he was admitted to the University of Missouri where he saw a production of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts and decided to become a playwright. After being forced from school by his father, he returned to his education the mid-1930s, he had two of his plays (Candles to the Sun and The Fugitive Kind) produced by Mummers of St. Louis, and in 1938, he graduated from the University of Iowa and eventually found himself in New Orleans.

In 1939, the young playwright received a $1,000 Rockefeller Grant, and a year later, Battle of Angels was produced in Boston. In 1944, what many consider to be his best play, The Glass Menagerie, had a very successful run in Chicago and a year later burst its way onto Broadway. The Glass Menagerie won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best play of the season.

Williams followed up his first major critical success with several other Broadway hits including A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, A Rose Tattoo, and Camino Real. He received his first Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for A Streetcar Named Desire, and reached an even larger world-wide audience in 1950 and 1951 when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were made into major motion pictures. Later plays which were also made into motion pictures include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (for which he earned a second Pulitzer Prize in 1955), Orpheus Descending, and Night of the Iguana.

In addition to twenty-five full length plays, Williams produced dozens of short plays and screenplays, two novels, a novella, sixty short stories, over one-hundred poems and an autobiography. Among his many awards, he won two Pulitzer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards.


McCarter Theatre is located at 91 University Place in Princeton, NJ. For more information, www.mccarter.org.


Ticket Information and Performance Schedule

Single tickets for Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll start as low as $25 and are on sale now online at mccarter.org, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton. Baby Doll will be performed on the Berlind Stage. The production will be one hour, thirty five minutes with no intermission.

For more about Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll, please
visit the production’s website.


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