Southern gothic heat

For their inaugural production, Violet Sky Theatre company has chosen Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke from 1948.

As is expected with any of Williams’s canonical works, Summer and Smoke is a portrait of the delicious agony of unrequited love. Alma Winemiller, the minister’s daughter, has been in love with John Buchanan, the boy next door, for her entire life. When John returns to their small Mississippi hometown after finishing medical school out east, Alma’s feelings return with the vigor of the Gulf winds that the townspeople pray for during their insufferably hot summers. 

Summer and Smoke
Through 7/31: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Reginald Vaughn Theater, 1105 W. Thorndale, violetskytheatre.com, $27

Alma is anxious, and Lindsey Zanatta gracefully and authentically carries that burden in her performance. She is quick-witted but reserved, beholden to the expectations of her religious upbringing and the belief that if she is the perfect lady, love will come. As John, Joshua J. Volkers embodies the swagger of a man who can have anything he wants, and he wants it all—sex, booze, parties, and maybe Alma—right now. Where Alma stutters, John stalks. Together, they invoke collective, trepidatious joy in the moments where their power dynamic flips, when Alma manages to catch John off his guard.

Summer and Smoke is a spiritual, sexual romantic drama, and Kevin Rolfs’s scenic design nails the southern Gothic aesthetic that carries this inherent dichotomy. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and in this performance, it’s stoked by the constant friction between Alma’s beliefs and John’s instincts, the heat when they hold hands. 

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