Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 7, 2016

The Rose Tattoo

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Wiliamstown, MA
through July 17, 2016
by Jarice Hanson

Director Tripp Cullman has taken a fresh approach to Tennessee Williams’ most upbeat play, “The Rose Tattoo.”  In the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s first production of the season, Marisa Tomei embodies the lusty Serafina who struggles with her daughter, her dead husband’s checkered past, and her own carnal desire in this multi-layered production. Tomei is funny, sympathetic, and physically perfect as a Sicilian immigrant in a geographically-vague community of immigrants in an ambiguous Gulf-community. She delivers her lines with exquisite comic timing and physical punctuation that extends through her fingertips.

Photo by Daniel Rader
She is well-matched by a cast of top-notch actors and newcomers, including energetic small children and even a goat. Lindsay Mendez has a rich bold voice, and sings folk tunes that help shape the mood of the scenes, and Christopher Abbott as the Italian truck driver who is “the grandson of the village idiot” and the man who ignites Serafina’s passion, are standouts in the play. Constance Shulman and Barbara Rosenblat (both familiar to audiences from “Orange is the New Black”) have smaller roles, but bring great characters and depth to the storytelling.   

The scenery, lighting, sound, costumes, and the projection of rolling waves are blended beautifully, and at times, actors enter on a ramp from the back of the audience in this large theatre. In addition, some scenes are played on the ramp, giving extra dimension to the production and adding a level of intimacy to the thoughts and desires of the characters.

The production is distinguished by the physicality of the cast and the sense of space. Like much of Williams’ work, the play invites us to identify with every character, tradition, and desire, and this production celebrates the life that like the Gulf waters, continually wash over us with both human fragility and strength. This is a beautiful production that brings insights to the work, and celebrates life, love, and heartache. It’s a tribute to an American master, and to the way theatre illuminates the human condition.