“Summer and Smoke” may stand a little higher in the Tennessee Williams canon after you see an exceptional Actors Co-op revival of the 1947 drama, one of the best offerings in the company’s storied history.
The production avoids cliched pitfalls and embraces the humanity that drives Williams’ symbology-ridden study of the eternal clash between spirit and flesh. Director Thom Babbes unearths the mercurial yet specific qualities that make “Smoke” a masterwork, albeit one less iconic than “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Both actors vanish inside their characters. Her evanescent, Mary-Louise Parker-meets-Kristen Wiig aspects are countered by his calmly volcanic energies, which recall the young Al Pacino by way of Adam Scott.
Indeed, one would likely need to travel back to the legendary José Quintero-helmed 1952 Circle in the Square production that launched Geraldine Page and the Off-Broadway movement to find such vivid embodiment of subtext.
Fernanda Rohd and Melody Hollis suggest opposite sides of the same essential coin as two very different inamoratas. Ditto Townsend Coleman and Marco Antonio Garcia as contrasting paterfamilias. Miss Alma’s literary coterie -- Markus Jorgensen, Ann Marie Wilding, Brian Habicht and the priceless Keri Tombazian -- along with Jorgensen’s enigmatic salesman at the finale are worth the admission.
Enveloped in Vicki Conrad’s wardrobe, Bill E. Kickbush’s lighting, Cameron Combe’s sound and Cooper Babbes’ original music, they deliver the visceral and ephemeral goods. It would be unthinkable to miss.
“Summer and Smoke”
Where: Actors Co-op, David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Also, 2:30 p.m. March 12 & April 16. Ends April 17. $30. (323) 462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.