The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Tennessee Williams

Feb 5, 2011 matinee

Roundabout production – Laura Pels Theatre

Nicknamed Angel of Death because rich women tend to die while he is keeping their company, Christopher Flanders comes calling at the remote island hilltop estate of Flora Goforth, played by Olympia Dukakis.  The question is, and will always be, whether these ladies die because of him or, as he professes, under his loving care.  It is what I do, says Christopher.  I nurture.  Trust me. 

His other nickname, given him by Flora, is Trojan Horse Guest.  He arrives unannounced, hungry and uninvited, having once been invited by the often lusty Flora to visit.  But, she says, “invitations, like passports, expire.”

Flora is addicted to opiates, which she washes down with brandy, supposedly for the treatment of neuritis or neuralgia or bursitis or some combination of the three.  We suspect it is cancer or consumption or some other debilitating illness which will soon take her life.  But she denies that to one and all, herself included, even when she spits up blood and sees a mist that isn’t there.

But she wants a last fling with the handsome Christopher, and overlooks his dalliances with her pretty young assistant, and a more than friendly kiss with a very gay visitor from the mainland, the Witch of Capri, who knows Christopher from a previous, perhaps recent alternate life. 

Flora has no illusions. A walking contradiction, she sometimes plays the lady and insists on propriety;  at other times she refers to herself as a Georgia swamp bitch when it suits her purpose.  So much the controller, she denies Christopher food, though he is famished, and denies Blackie, her assistant, release from her contract which she dearly wants and pointedly and repeatedly requests.

Ultimately we don’t know about Christopher’s sexuality. He surfs from one wealthy, moribund old woman to the next, doing what he must to survive.  Like a ski-bum who would be lost if removed from the slopes.  We don’t know what happens to him after Flora succumbs and, frankly we don’t care.  Not a very sympathetic or interesting character. One to be wondered at, perhaps pitied, if we even care that much.

Not Williams’s best play by far;  adequately acted by all, but no outstanding performances.  The set was well-designed and utilized, and that is the best part of this production.