Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three One-Acts on a Saturday Night

This past weekend was another weekend highlighted by a trip to the theatre. This time it was to see the “The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams” presented by The Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center in Hollywood. Williams wrote these three one-acts during the course of his astounding career (his untimely death came in 1983) and were only recently discovered.

First was “Mister Paradise,” directed by Robert Burgos. Set in a squalid residence in the New Orleans French Quarter in 1942, it tells the bittersweet story of a long forgotten poet, Anthony Paradise (Jack Heller), and the unexpected visit from an adoring fan (Melissa Lechner). She’s insistent on using her connections to revive his career, but Paradise no longer has the energy or desire saying, “Death is the only thing that could save my reputation.” William’s brilliant dialogue is beautifully captured with nuanced performances from both Lechner and Heller.

Next was “The Palooka” which takes place in the 1930s in the dressing room of a boxing arena. It’s the story of an up-and-coming boxer who, while waiting for his match to begin, meets an older boxer, The Palooka, and discovers the harsh reality of what it’s like to be at the top of your game, to lose the fame, and to not accept when it’s over. This was the shortest of the one-acts, and though it was quite predictable, the performances and direction kept the audience enthralled.

The final piece brought the drama back to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend in the 1950s. “And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens” is the most ambitious and daring of the one-acts with impressive direction from Jack Heller. Brian Foyster plays transvestite Mr. “Candy” Delaney who brings home abusive seaman Karl (Chris Rydell) and refuses to heed the warnings of where this relationship is headed. This is Williams’ rare piece where he deals exclusively with gay characters and themes. It’s quite powerful, and Foyster’s portrayal of Candy’s desperation for love and attention is beautifully acted.

Tennessee William’s is regarded as one of America’s most brilliant playwrights. His body of work includes the Pulitzer Prize winning “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1948) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955), “The Glass Menagerie” (1945), and “The Night of the Iguana” (1961). In 1952 he won the Tony award for Best Play for “The Rose Tattoo.”

“The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams” offers a glimpse into a brilliant man whose imprint on American theatre will last forever.

1 comment:

Tennessee said...

The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams will be moving to The Coast Playhouse on Santa Monica Boulevard west of Sweetzer. It will have an open-ended run beginning June 5th and play Thur-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 7pm. Reservations: (323) 860-7300.