By Tom Holehan

Olympia Dukakis is pretty much the whole show in Hartford, where she takes on the expansive role of Flora Goforth in Tennessee Williams’ beleaguered late play, “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”. The Hartford Stage production has much to recommend – first and foremost is Artistic Director Michael Wilson’s ten-year goal to bring all the playwright’s work to Hartford audiences. Second is the astounding seaside setting by Jeff Cowie who creates Mrs. Goforth’s Italian mountaintop villa complete with craggy cliffs, elaborate furnishings and floor-to-ceiling drapes. John Gromada’s typically superb music and sound design helps complete this exotic setting to perfection.

Then we deal with Mr. Williams’ play. A notorious Broadway flop in 1964 (it lasted only nine performances); it was revised several times by the author and eventually was relatively well-received in a 1987 off-Broadway production starring Elizabeth Ashley. The drama deals with some of Williams’ favorite themes -- the battle between love and death, youth and age, desire and compassion -- while recalling earlier works by the author like “Night of the Iguana” and “Sweet Bird of Youth”. The dying Flora Goforth refuses to go gently into that good night and when Chris Flanders, aka “The Angel of Death”, arrives at her villa the stage is set for the ultimate showdown. Kevin Anderson brings a wry and seedy veneer to the stud role and plays well off of Dukakis’ flirty banter.

But amidst the author’s undeniable poetry and human insight are long monologues that border on the pretentious with dramatic revelations like, “I’m living but not living!” often bringing the proceedings to an abrupt halt. To Michael Wilson’s credit, he has successfully mined as much humor as possible from the play and Dukakis – even while reaching for lines here and there – is never less than grandly entertaining. But some plays – even from writer royalty like Tennessee Williams – really should stay in the trunk.

“The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” plays through June 15 at Hartford Stage. For tickets call 860.527.5151 or visit:

Tom Holehan is co-founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website:

(This review originally appeared in Elm City Newspapers on May 28, 2008.)

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