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Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

In a world first, Tokyo produces Tennessee Williams' 'Mrs. Stone' for stage


Special to The Japan Times

The premiere of a stage production based on a major work of fiction is a major event. If the work is "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," a 1950 novel by Tennessee Williams — one of the giants of modern theater — it is all the more remarkable.

This heart-rending, provocative and disturbing tale by Tennessee Williams (1911-83), playing on his penchant for heroines whose lives are shattered by harsh reality (as in his famed "Streetcar Named Desire"), has only once been made into a film, in 1961.

It next surfaced in 2003 as a made-for-TV drama, garnering five Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations that year. Its creators — director Robert Allan Ackerman and Tony-nominee playwright Martin Sherman — are the same team who have created the upcoming staging with an all-Japanese cast.

The heroine of Williams' work is Karen Stone (Rei Asami), a rich and famous former American actress whose devoted husband dies suddenly while they are on holiday in Rome. Before long, as she stays in the city to come to terms with her grief, she encounters wily Contessa (Kyoko Enami), who introduces her to a young gigolo named Paolo (Sohee Park). Stone at first recoils from this sweet-talking, attractive hunk, but she loses her head after they finally sleep together and devotes herself to an illusional love game. By then, though, Williams' cruel and fatal climax is fast approaching.

Speaking in Tokyo recently, Ackerman said: "Williams was a great poet and novelist and the most important American playwright. . . . His sensitivity made him brilliantly and beautifully able to describe Mrs. Stone's feelings here.

"Now, having worked in the Japanese drama world for so long, I believe audiences here will relish this masterpiece. And afterward, I would like to take this production and its Japanese cast to other countries as well."

"The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" runs Feb. 28-Mar. 22 at the Parco Theatre in Shibuya. It then moves to Theater Drama City in Osaka from Mar. 28-29. Call Parco Theatre on (03) 3477-5858 or visit www.parco-play.com


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