Sunday, September 20, 2009

Post-FringeNYC: His Greatness

I've seen an awful lot of theater over my 40 years, but I just realized when sitting down to write this, that I've only ever seen one or two Tennessee Williams plays performed on stage, and I don't know that I've ever seen him done particularly well. I've seen the movies, though, like everybody else, with poor, crazy Vivian Leigh playing poor, crazy Blanche DuBois and Brando and Newman and Taylor. Maybe modern actors aren't up to Williams, or maybe they're just not right for his plays. Maybe you need beautiful, serious actors with movie star charisma and speaking voices from earlier in the 20th Century. People sound so different in the aughts of the twenty-first century than they did in the mid-twentieth. Whatever the answer, the world has changed and Williams is a little out of fashion.

I saw Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor's play His Greatness Saturday afternoon at the Soho Playhouse, where it has one performance left as a part of The FringeNYC Encore series. It shows a couple of days in the last years of (unnamed) Tennessee Williams's life. His life has become a sodden, sordid drunken mess. He is attended to by his fortyish assistant a former lover and rent boy, who now acts as Williams's secretary, nursemaid and procurer. The action takes place in a sad, mid-range hotel room in Vancouver, where one of Williams's unsuccessful late plays is being produced. The relationship between these two men, like many bad marriages, is both funny and sad.

This isn't usually my sort of play, and having seen four or five Daniel MacIvor shows over the past ten years or so, it isn't his usual play either. It was such a regular play compared to Never Swim Alone or Beautiful view. I've also sort of decided at some point that I don't care about plays or movies if they don't include and girls. About halfway through I realized, "Oh! This is Daniel MacIvor doing his own version of a Tennessee Williams play." And then it all made sense to me. It's really well done and totally worth checking out.

His Greatness
Soho Playhouse
Fri. September 25, 7pm

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