We all know Tennessee Williams the playwright, but the man behind the plays has faded somewhat into the background. Written and performed by Jacob Storms and originally directed by Alan Cummings, Tennessee Rising; The Dawn of Tennessee Williams takes a look at the sources of inspiration for Williams' plays and delves into the psyche of the playwright.
Manages to capture a poets’ heart and words, but not necessarily his voice
A young man named Tom (Jacob Storms) recounts the events from when he enters a playwriting competition to the premiere of one of his plays - The Glass Menagerie - on Broadway. Like Williams’ plays, this show incorporates commentary on both the wider world and individuals, and builds the various characters that we meet before our eyes, whilst providing insight into the politics of the time. It’s incredibly satisfying whenever the odd reference to a source of inspiration for one of Williams’ characters is made. They’re never too obvious, just the odd nod to future works and ideas, and shows how ingrained this show is in Williams’ work.
Through his performance, Storms does bring Tennessee Williams to life, bringing his own interpretation to the role. The only problem is, he seems to play the role with his guard up; despite the words that he says, it doesn’t seem genuine, almost as if he’s separating himself from the character. His impassive, somewhat guarded expressions don’t match the emotional weight and intensity behind the words, which become somewhat monotonous and indistinguishable in their subject matter due to Storms’ speech pattern. The stresses that he puts on the words repeat over and over again in every sentence, the pattern being; statement, and then some knowing commentary, almost like he is gossiping with us about whatever he initially said. What this means is that it almost doesn’t matter what is being said, whether it’s a discussion of fascism or backstage gossip, each subject is treated and spoken about in the same way. Storms does not quite manage to slip on the skin of Williams or get inside his head, he just misses that one last step to fully become the playwright which means that the emotional weight behind the piece doesn’t quite translate to us.
This direct approach to Tennessee Williams’ life is very heartfelt, voicing deep insecurities and musings about the world that manages to capture a poets’ heart and words, but not necessarily his voice.