Tennessee Rising is indeed a one-person show, a piece that looks at Tennessee Williams’ creative life from his youth to his initial success with Glass Menagerie. Jacob Storms created and performs it this weekend at the .ZACK.
Storms gives us vignettes that are snapshot-like, often short, with blackouts between to puncturate the ideas. The concept is a good one. Williams’ life is sufficiently complex that having fewer, longer scenes wouldn’t give as much scope for the work. Kudos, by the way, to the uncredited tech folk who handle the lights so smoothly. The set is simple, almost stark, a single wooden chair onstage, three light bars in the rear, so the focus is on the material.
He’s a convincing Williams, story-telling rather than imitating, although using a Southern accent as did Williams – considering Williams’ travels throughout the United States and his seldom living in the South after his youth, one wonders if he maintained his accent as a choice for his personal style. Flashes of wit, considerable pain, battles with self-doubt and a drive to continue to write all mark the story. There’s not a huge amount of St. Louis material – we all know about his discomfort with this city – but he talks about his dearly loved sister Rose, her slow descent into mental illness, the prefrontal lobotomy that resulted and its aftermath.
This is a satisfying piece of work for those who are interested in more about this wild, creative soul; we’re spared the descent and struggles of his later years and are rewarded with the ovation of opening night of Menagerie on Broadway. It’s a fine way end this piece about Williams’ early life.
Just this weekend, so get a move on.
through May 13
Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
3224 Locust St.