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'Milk Train' spoils stellar performances

Milk Train

Milk Train Photo Credit: Handout

The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

2.5 stars

“The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” considered by many to be Tennessee Williams’ biggest flop, marked the start of his so-called “Stoned Age.”

It flopped on Broadway in 1963 — and again in 1964 — and was later adapted into the critically maligned film “Boom!” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Director Michael Wilson, who is directing the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Off-Broadway revival, has edited all three versions together.

The play is derivative of Williams’ more familiar and successful works. Flora Goforth (Olympia Dukakis), a senile, sick and demanding widow, is incoherently dictating her memories to her young secretary Blackie when a handsome drifter unexpectedly turns up on her property.

A self-described “Angel of Death,” he specializes in wooing dying older women.

Goforth, who was married four times and took numerous lovers, smells a last opportunity for sex. She goes so far as to wear a red wig and Madame Butterfly kimono. Even Blackie, emotionally withdrawn after her husband’s death, finds herself seduced by the young man.

At first, you might find yourself thinking that “Milk Train” was unjustly panned when it first premiered. But this is mostly due to Dukakis’ absolutely masterful and outrageously over-the-top performance, which captures Goforth’s fragility and feistiness with truly convincing detail. By Act Two, the play essentially stops moving, and nothing occurs besides a melodramatic death scene.

Even so, Wilson’s production is beautifully atmospheric in how it evokes the sights and smells of an Italian mountainside home. And Edward Hibbert briefly steals the stage as Goforth’s flamboyantly frisky pal — a role usually played by a woman.

But Maggie Lacey, who has been terrific in many plays, is ill at ease as Blackie. Darren Pettie, who walks around shirtless and briefly gets completely nude, projects a mysterious quality but suffers from the blankness of his character.

If you go: “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” plays at the Laura Pels Theatre through April 3. 111 W. 46th St., 212-719-1300, roundabouttheatre.org.
 

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