Olympia Dukakis conducts a sparkling Milk Train
By Bonnie Goldberg

We all long for companionship and love in our lives and, how much more so, if death is imminent and we don’t want to depart this world alone.  To Flora Goforth, living on a secluded mountain top retreat on the Amalfi coast of Italy, dictating her colorful memoirs to her secretary Blackie (Maggie Lacey), the prospect of death’s arrival is a particularly devastating one.

The adventurous Ms. Goforth, splendidly created by Olympia Dukakis, is an aging society diva who, in her youth, delighted in doing shocking things like appear at a costume ball as the ravishingly unclad Lady Godiva.  She has had four husbands, the first two ugly, the third who resembled an ostrich and only the fourth, a handsome stud, who was able to break the protective shell around her heart with his love and sexual intimacy.  Unfortunately, he was killed speeding in a sports car she gave him as a gift.

Now the vulnerable, feisty and unique lady is facing three deadlines:  her New York publisher, her London publisher and one with the Angel of Death.  Until Sunday, June 15, the Hartford Stage will be mounting a dazzling version of Tennessee Williams’ “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” as the tenth installment of their Tennessee Williams Marathon, a decade long tribute to one of America’s finest playwrights.

Kevin Anderson plays the mysteriously engaging stranger Christopher Flanders who arrives on the diva’s doorstep unannounced but possibly not unwelcomed.  A maker of mobiles and a writer of poetry, Christopher could as easily be a con man and thief, a last possibility to offer love or a sweet soul to make her passage into the next world a little easier.  The sudden arrival of Flora’s friendly enemy, the Witch of Capri (Judith Roberts), casts suspicions over Chris’s motives and provides a catalyst for the plot.  Michael Wilson directs this engaging drama with flair on a romantic set designed by Jeff Cowie.

For tickets ($23-64), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org.; Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sundays and selected Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m.  Go to www.ctcritics.org for other reviews of this and other current offerings in the theater.

Visit Ms. Goforth’s mountain, where the scavenger crows are circling, as she boldly battles against death and takes a last fling at love.

(This review appeared in the Middletown Press on May 29, 2008.)

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