No short list of classic American playwrights is complete without the name of Tennessee Williams. Considered one of the world's outstanding dramatists, he is internationally acclaimed for such trenchant tragedies as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Summer and Smoke, and The Garden District. These are dark, scorching studies of human frailty and human foibles; they address desperate, wounded individuals who struggle to survive in a world that misuses them; and they require insightful direction and consummate acting techniques to succeed onstage. As such, it took great courage for the Long Beach Playhouse to tackle Williams' The Rose Tattoo. It also required the finely honed skills of director Mark Piatelli, who guides his 20-member cast through very difficult terrain.
As in many of Williams' dramas, the action takes place in the heat of Louisiana, with its volatile multiracial population. Though the cast is uneven, Brenda Petrakos is superb in her passionate portrayal of Serafina delle Rose—a superstitious, deeply religious, hot-blooded Sicilian widow who remains in mourning three years after her beloved husband was killed. Rumors that he had a mistress have reduced Serafina to crying jags and nonstop prayer to the Holy Virgin. Also excellent is Matt Kelsey, who turns in a delightful performance as the down-and-out Mangiacavallo, an energetic young stud who pulls Serafina out of despair and brings her back to life. He may have the head of a clown, but Mangiacavallo's body is lean, clean, and desirable and reminds the widow of her husband. Jessica Martinez plays the rebellious Rosa, Serafina's 15-year-old daughter, whose hormones start racing when she meets a handsome young sailor (Take Yamazaki) at her high school graduation; Angela McEwan portrays La Strega, the witch who spews insults at Serafina and spreads gossip throughout town; and Larry Schwartz plays ineffective but well-intentioned Father de Leo.
The fine design elements includes Vincent Roca's the rose-colored set, Michael Schrupp's atmospheric rose-colored lighting, Suji Brewer's dramatic black-and-white costumes, and Ron Wyand's glorious soundtrack of classical music that winds throughout the play's nine scenes.
"The Rose Tattoo," presented by and at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sun. 2 p.m. Jan. 3-Feb. 14. $20. (562) 494-1014.