Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fear and Foreboding in 'Milk Train'

The mysterious Christopher (Darren Pettie) may or may not mean Flora (Olympia Dukakis) harm in “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” Photos by Joan Marcus.


esteemed for “A Streetcar Named Desire” and many other works, wrote the very disturbing “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” in 1963 just after his lover had died.

Flora “Sissy” Goforth (Olympia Dukakis) is outlandishly louder-than-life. She is full of contradictions – at once cantankerous, exuberant, bullying, randy, despondent and vulgar. In “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, ”she is also dying and is deeply in denial about her illness, yet cunning and scared. OD commands the stage as Flora broadcasts her wishes and orders over the sound system she has installed.

Frances (Maggie Lacey) and Christopher (Darren Pettie) have a moment in “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.”

To help Flora ease her way is Frances “Blackie” Black (Maggie Lacey) who takes equal parts dictation and abuse. Even the compassionate Blackie can be cruel, suffering as she does under Flora’s bravado and heartlessness, the former tells the handsome poet, Christopher Flanders (Darren Pettie). Christopher has mysteriously shown up at Flora’s Italian mountaintop villa.

A difficult and troubled work, “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” gets star treatment at the Roundabout Theatre’s off-Broadway Laura Pels Theatre through 3 April. Among its most egregious failings are disquieting character/plot twists. TW breaks with realism; the resultant changes in tone are jarring. (See video:

Christopher’s sudden appearance and his place in Flora’s world is an oddity, but “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” veers completely off course with the appearance of “The Witch of Capri” (Edward Hibbert).

All semblance of naturalism is suddenly disrupted and the actors, as if they were in a late 19th century melodrama, become stilted and wooden as if to signal a change in tone. They soon revert to the more naturalistic tone from the beginning of the play, except for EH whose delivery remains outlandish. He is deliciously vicious and swish as the gossipy Witch.

The Witch (Edward Hibbert) gives Flora (Olympia Dukakis) an earful about a certain handsome stranger in “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.”

Since Flora has allowed Christopher to stay in her pink cottage – probably because her fourth husband, Alex, was also a poet and handsome – she has invited The Witch to dine so that he can her the lowdown on her new houseguest. Christopher, it turns out, has been a companion to a number of rich women all of whom have died under his care. The Witch informs Flora that Christopher is known as the Angel of Death in their social set.

Director Michael Wilson makes an admirable attempt to bring the seldom-revived work to life. Unfortunately, it has many obstacles for both director and actors to overcome.

To learn more about “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” visit

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