Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of getting to know Tennessee Williams -- not the real Tennessee Williams, of course, but the man as interpreted by actor/writer William Shuman, who presented his insightful solo show "En Avant! An Evening With Tennessee Williams" at Baruch College this weekend.
Dressed in a white suit and blue shirt, Shuman led the audience through this remarkable playwright -- not unlike a grandfather reminiscing about his past to his grandkids. The simple yet effective set helped to create this casual atmosphere: Shuman often held forth from a big, wicker chair in the middle of the stage, occasionally pouring himself a drink from a nearby table; papers and an old typewriter idled on another table to his right.
Shuman, who also wrote the play, has clearly done his research -- but even if he'd made everything up, I would have believed it: his acting is genius, every syllable and gesture delivered convincingly. Shuman focuses especially on Williams' struggle as a writer; we learn, for example, that his father often put him down for his chosen career path. Knowing that the writer pushed past this negativity to become one of America's most significant playwrights made the play feel inspirational.
While most of us know Williams' plays, few know as much about the man himself. You would be doing yourself a favor to see this one-man show if you get the chance.