Perfect Tenn

Jeremy Lawrence’s one-man show Everybody Expects Me to Write Another Streetcar
By CAROLYN CLAY  |  October 4, 2007

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When Tennessee Williams summered in Provincetown in the early 1940s, Eugene O’Neill was the playwright most associated with the tip of the Cape. He still is, but that hasn’t stopped a cadre of folks from trying to claim some sand for the author of Streetcar. Late September saw the second annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, a four-day event offering no fewer than 59 events including a couple of world premieres of unpublished short works by Williams, various works inspired by the playwright, and Ryan Landry’s homage in the form of parody, The Plexiglass Menagerie  ― which removes Williams’s famed memory play to a FEMA trailer in the wake of Katrina.

Certainly a highlight was Jeremy Lawrence’s one-man show Everybody Expects Me to Write Another Streetcar, “arranged” by the actor using a melange of interviews and extracts ― from Williams's notebooks, Memoirs, and much-maligned late plays. Lawrence as Williams putting in a public appearance, his white suit a bit rumpled, his shaking hands wrapped around a glass of white wine, casually makes his way up the aisle to the stage to spill memory, artistic philosophy, catty anecdote, and bile ― much of the last directed at the critics he had come to regard as “assassins.”

The actor’s presentation of the playwright’s fey Southern cadence and lush phraseology is uncanny, as is the delicate balance of affectation, mischief, and malice. This is the washed-up Williams of the 1970s, who has fought his way past the “stoned age” of the ’60s and an involuntary asylum stay (the subject of a long poem, “What’s Next on the Agenda, Mr. Williams?,” which Lawrence, squinting through square-ish glasses, delivers from behind a small podium). Valiant and bitter, now holding court, now trying to hold himself together, the “compulsive writer” begs to be allowed the freedom to move beyond the gauzy poetic realism of The Glass Menagerie and Streetcar to new forms.

Lawrence has made a cottage industry of Williams, first in an earlier one-man show, Talking Tennessee, then as the Williams avatar who bridged director Michael Kahn’s 2004 compendium Five by Tenn, one of several collections of newly discovered or under-appreciated short works by Williams that include Michael Wilson’s 8 by Tenn for Hartford Stage and Scott Edmiston’s Five by Tenn for SpeakEasy Stage Company. Ironically, what these retrospectives have demonstrated is exactly what the Williams of Everybody Expects Me to Write Another Streetcar argues. Sure, some of what Williams produced between The Night of the Iguana in 1961 and his death in 1983 was lurid and incoherent. But some of it was savaged just for straying into Ionesco or Beckett territory when it was expected to stay on the Streetcar.
Related: Play by play: September 18, 2009, Winter's tales, Play by play: September 11, 2009, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Performing Arts, Accidents and Disasters,  More more >
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