In this first-rate staging of Tennessee Williams' rarely produced drama Baby Doll, Tony Gatto turns in a stellar performance as Archie Lee Meighan, the owner of a broken-down cotton gin in Tiger Tail, Miss., whose luscious 19-year-old bride, Baby Doll (Lulu Brud), refuses to consummate their marriage until she reaches her 20th birthday. Having lost his furniture to a loan company, and desperate for money and his wife's sexual indulgences, Archie burns down the cotton gin of a competitor, Sicilian immigrant Silva Vacarro (Ronnie Marmo), but is soon trapped in an unyielding snare of lust, avarice and revenge. Joel Daavid's direction deftly balances the play's humorous and dour underpinnings (the use of the ensemble as a type of Greek chorus is especially effective), and he draws excellent performances from the cast. Gatto is a platter of rage, redneck buffoonery and arrogance, while Brud's ever-beckoning sensuality is as polished as Marmo's understated menace. Daavid's design of the mutlilevel set slyly evokes rural simplicity and deprivation. Jaques Lynn Colton is a hoot as an addle-brained aunt.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 11. Continues through Jan. 22, 2011

LA Weekly