Tennessee Williams’s early and immature Spring Storm is best as a game for Williams fans: How many names, characters, situations, and devices of his later plays can you identify here? Heavenly, Esmeralda, and Shannon; a framed photo portrait on the wall that lights up; someone told that what may be cancer is merely gas—these are among the easy ones. Easy, too, is Hertha, the love-starved librarian, who at 28 in the Mississippi Delta of 1937 is already an old maid.
Prototypical is the heroine, Heavenly Critchfield, a passionate young woman frustrated by stifling provincial life among puritans, and having a clandestine affair with like-minded Dick Miles, a hunky, impecunious young malcontent, aching to get away but hard put to find a suitable job. Uneager to face hardships with him, the hot-blooded Heavenly is reluctantly considering the repressed young millionaire Arthur Shannon, timidly in love with her since grade school, whom her ambitious and officious mother is insistently advocating. With typical inexperience, Williams does not develop Heavenly’s henpecked father, has Heavenly change loves too precipitously, and indulges in melodrama and self-consciously poetic prose more than is good for the play.
And not only poetic prose; also quoted poetry, with which the young poetry-writing Williams was obsessed. We get characters quoting Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Joyce Kilmer, and T. S. Eliot (twice), and also promoting a fictional poet, Humphrey Hardcastle. August Strindberg and James Fenimore Cooper are also alluded to. Still, it is not unusual for a writer to be “literary” on the way to becoming literature himself; which is not to say that Spring Storm is wholly without merit. The dialogue sometimes crackles, there is a measure of suspense, and the characters’ diction is not without flavor.
But the Lobo Theatre production is a low blow, especially in casting as the beautiful, universally desired Heavenly the unappealing Krista Lambden, one of Lobo’s founders. In the cast, only John Gazzale (Arthur), Kristen Cerelli (Hertha), and the veteran Carlin Glynn, as down-to-earth Aunt Lila Critchfield, impress. Shawn Lewis’s scenery makes the most of limited means; Coy Middlebrook’s direction, rather less.