BETH WILMURT – A stunning “Alma” in The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, at the Aurora Theatre

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Beth Wilmurt is the subject in the current production of Tennessee Williams’ The Eccentricities of a Nightingale now at the Aurora Theatre through Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 8th. The playwright has smiled upon Beth Wilmurt’s embodiment of his beloved “Alma”, the daughter of a turn-of-the-century stalwart southern Episcopalian minister. Wilmurt brings a contemporary sensibility to the girl who winds up tricking with any guy who’s got the cash for one of those rent-by-the-hour hotel rooms over in “Tiger Town”. Outside of fretful sleep patterns, the scandalous trysts may be the only time she stops yammering long enough to release a life-time of pent-up, buttoned-up sexual passion.

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Beth Wilmurt and Thomas Gorrebeeck
Photo, David Allen

Beth Wilmurt is a stunning talent with a compelling attraction. She’s a brainy actress, along the lines of Julie Harris, with a likewise penetrating sense of vulnerability. Her voice is beautiful and persuasive as she commandeers the haunting complexities of Williams’ lyrical, tangent-driven script. Alma delights in her own exuberance and the art of her conversation. At every turn, Alma will bolster a statement with quaint recollections and literary references. She’s prepared to illustrate and elucidate, and go far afield to make her point while incorporating a wealth of gesture and facial animation. Her father, the minister, disapproves how she throws her head back when she laughs. And why so loudly? The townsfolk are beginning to snigger during her public solos, including the hymns at Sunday services. She can wear you out.

Before Alma’s descent into sexual hedonism – she nurtured an obsession for the boy next door, the unavailable “John” (played by Thomas Gorrebeeck). He’s now a recently graduated medical student, exploring his options. John’s mother (played by Marcia Pizzo) carries a torch for him as well. Her precious young man is just going to be the most popular doctor ever and, OK, she still has this thing for drying-off his pinky toes when he comes in out of the rain. Alma knows their variety of exchange. She can see into John’s bedroom. She’s been watching him. Things start picking-up after she tells John her secret.

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Beth Wilmurt, Marcia Pizzo, Thomas Gorrebeeck
Photo, David Allen

Alma must somehow deflect the mother’s control over John. Alma has accumulated a variety of tactics in a long history of defending herself from the madness of her own mother (played by Amy Crumpacker). In this version of Williams’ play – John is not so much the provocative playboy, but a submissive Mama’s Boy. Alma knows she can manipulate him to “come to mama do”. On a cold winter’s night, Alma persuades John into a rendezvous at the Tiger Town Lodge. Not long after the dollar-room door is shut – and after a couple of attempts, a few shots of Chianti from a bottle wrapped in straw, and a bit more heat from the fireplace – the eccentric preacher’s daughter and handsome medical graduate shatter the commandments on a dirty floor.

Beth Wilmurt is a consumate actress. As “Alma Winemiller” she stays clear of cliché and hyper-nostalgia. She is supported by a fine cast that also includes popular musical theatre and cabaret personality Leanne Borghesi (Mrs. Bassett), along with Charles Dean (Rev. Winemiller) Beth Deitchman (Rosemary), and Ryan Tasker (Roger).
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: The Eccentricities of a Nightingale

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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