Entertainment » Theatre

Baby Doll

by Michelle  Sandoval
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 19, 2016
Lindsay LaVanchy and Daniel Bess
Lindsay LaVanchy and Daniel Bess  

Things are heating up in Los Angeles, and it's not just due to the hot summer weather! For the first time ever, audiences can see a brand new production by Tennessee Williams -- "Baby Doll," adapted from the Academy Award nominated film. Presented by the multi-award winning Fountain Theatre, known for its intimacy and creativity, this sultry black comedy delivers a phenomenal show that will leave your every sensation aching for more.

Based on Williams' one-act play "27 Wagons Full of Cotton," "Baby Doll" tells the story of 19-year-old married virgin Baby Doll. Wed to much older Archie Lee, she has agreed to consummate the marriage on her 20th birthday (two days away) if, and only if, he is able to provide her with a comfortable living.

Fallen on hard times, Archie Lee is desperate to meet his end of the bargain which results in his committing arson on his neighbor and rival's cotton gin, the only way he sees to save his own failing business. When Silva, a sexy Sicilian immigrant, arrives asking questions and ultimately seeking revenge for the crime, Baby Doll is thrown in the middle and her naivety and desires are pushed to the limit.

Directing this West Coast premiere is Simon Levy, who has directed many of Williams' other works at the theatre. Of "Baby Doll" he says, "The miracle of Tennessee Williams is that he can write these wonderful, wacky, wildly rich and complex characters and situations, yet underneath it all are timeless social and political themes."

The dark comedy stars Lindsay LaVanchy as Baby Doll, John Prosky as Archie Lee, and Daniel Bess as Silva. LaVanchy brings us a stunning portrayal of Baby Doll, encompassing the innocence, curiosity, and naivety that her role requires. You can see her character blossom on stage as she moves from being the pawn in the men's revengeful games, to one of the players in the end.

Her chemistry with Bess is electrifying from the start. The two are a delight to watch both in moments of tenderness and during passionate outbursts. They make the stage their own and leave the audience fanning themselves and longing for a cold drink as their seduction reaches its peak.

Just as impressive as the acting were the stage and set. As soon as you walk into the theatre you will be transported to the Mississippi Delta and the rundown farmhouse where the story unfolds. Built by the talented Jeffrey McLaughlin, the set is simply brilliant, from every creaky wooden plank to a dusty yard with a sprinkling of red roses (mainly thorns) to Baby Doll's signature crib.

Ken Booth handled the lighting design, helping to create a hot and muggy atmosphere so real the audience must have been perspiring despite the cool AC. Invoking the true essence of Williams' story, these masterminds created a beautiful, sweaty, dusty work of art.

When the original film was released back in the 1950's, Catholic leaders denounced it, claiming people would be committing a sin if they saw it. Using words like "salacious," "morally repellent," "revolting," "lewd," and "provocative" to describe it; regardless, the film managed to thrive despite this small controversy.

Well, I'd have to agree somewhat with most of these claims. The Fountain Theatre's "Baby Doll," is many, many things -- it's salacious, but spectacular; provocative, but profound; revolting, but riveting. Overall, it is a brilliant show that will seduce you with its story and charm you with its characters. And above all, it is well worth a view and the perfect show to add some sexy sizzle into your summer.

"Baby Doll" runs through August 29 at the Fountain Theatre located at 5060 Fountain Ave., in Los Angeles. For tickets or information, call 323-663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com.

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