Saturday, December 01, 2007

Becoming Tennessee

The new Artistic Director of The Emelin Theatre (in the Westchester town of Mamaroneck) has big and bold plans for the house, which include a major renovation to accomodate big musicals and the addition of a second small black box theatre for plays. His first season has included a series of concerts and new works; this one, a reading of a new musical which concerns Tennessee Williams' first week off the bus in New Orleans, has undergone some revision since it was workshopped last year at the O'Neill Center. As it was a reading and not open for review, I don't want to say too much about it, except that Brian Charles Rooney - without benefit of costume or makeup - ably captured something recognizable of Williams in his portrayal of the playwright as a green twenty-eight year old. (Everyone in the cast was well-suited to their respective roles, in fact: I especially also liked Jerry Dixon, whose character serves as something of a bad influence on Williams). The show's book is essentially solid, depicting several key relationships that shape the young man into an expressive artist, and the score is well-suited to the time and the place of the story: one section of music, which covers Williams picking up a soldier and spending the night with him, is transporting and lyrical: it's still lingering in my head days later.

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