Magnificent. I’m still not quite sure why it’s billed for “young adults”— this is one of the subtlest and smartest productions of Tennessee Williams I’ve seen, directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov with gorgeous restraint technically and utter mastery by the superb actors, who nail every single performance as heartbreaking and uproarious simultaneously. The balance of power in the family’s relationships and the pathetic longings of each character are carried off just right, and with all the terrible force we can stand. James T. Alfred as Tom, the protagonist son and narrator of the play, eventually emerges as its anti-hero, delivering monologues and explanation with exquisite vulnerability but also the kind of clarity that every “adult” production could use. An African-American cast adds an extra element of intelligent provocation, especially when the characters challenge each other about “the difference between us and them” and the histrionic matriarch (in a truly astounding performance by Shanesia Davis) waxes nostalgic about a past life of servants and ease. (Monica Westin)
At Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N Halsted, (312)335-1650 Through November 9.