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CurtainUp Review

Thomas Lanier Williams, better known by his moniker "Tennessee Williams," is brought to life in En Avant! An Evening with Tennessee Williams. This solo show, written and performed by William Shuman, is an homage to the master who gave us the indelible characters of Blanche Dubois, Maggie the Cat, and the fragile-as-glass Laura Wingfield-to mention a few. Even if you typically run in the opposite direction from one-person shows, you should really make the exception for this one. Shuman's easy-going manner is altogether winning. Dressed in a dapper white suit and Panama hat, he may not be the spittin' image of Williams but bears enough of a resemblance to pull you in. According to his "Author's Note" in the program, Shuman's love affair with Williams sparked at Northeastern University where he "was cast as the Gentleman Caller in The Glass Menagerie." Not only was he immediately stage struck, he would soon be devouring Williams' short stories and journals. Little wonder that his current monologue is chock-full of insights, anecdotes, and vital facts on Williams. What makes this 85-minute yarn different than most biodramas, however, is that Shuman isn't attempting to inhabit the great writer but to create a convincing "impression" of who Williams was. And, as he floridly riffs on the various aspects of this literary titan, he paces across the stage to pour himself a drink, settles into a patio chair, taps away at an old-fashioned typewriter, or waltzes around the performing space. It is evident that this is a labor of love for Shuman, and that he is utterly fascinated by his famous subject. Far from a hagiography, Shuman explores Williams' rollercoaster career, his troubled family life, his alcohol and drug addictions, and his homosexuality. Some Williams' aficionados may fault Shuman for "impressionizing", and not impersonating, the writer in the piece. This reviewer just took the show on its own terms and relished every morsel parceled out on Williams. After all, how can you outdo this quote that sails in with gravitas at the finale: "He [Williams] was a monster among angels, and an angel among monsters." At Kabayitos. 85 minutes.

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