Those two glimpses of sensitive youth give way to a scene from Vieux Carré, which is based on Williams’s early-1930s awakening in the New Orleans neighborhood of the title. Edmiston says he wanted to include the vignette, in which Rubbe plays the Writer to the predatory yet companionable tubercular artist of Will McGarrahan, because it marked Williams’s first depiction of sexual intimacy between men. But Vieux Carré was first only in the sense that it was produced. Around 1960 the author had written the other showpiece of Five by Tenn, And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens, which while leading up to its punch-line variation on Richard II tells the Blanche DuBois–esque tale of Candy Delaney, a New Orleans decorator who likes to bring home rough trade and dress up in drag with, predictably, violent results. An outwardly one-note-belligerent Christopher Brophy telegraphs the brute sailor’s inward confusion, and the excellent Allyn Burrows proves a dapper yet feminine Candy.
Irish explorer Tom Crean was not just a cool customer but a cold customer, bellying up to the bar of Antarctic adventure not once but three times. And he tells all about it in Irish-born writer/performer Aidan Dooley’s engaging one-man show Tom Crean — Antarctic Explorer (presented by Súgán Theatre Company at the Boston Center for the Arts through February 11). Suiting up in wind-breaking Burberrys beneath a beach ball of a moon and a hovering sledge, Dooley suggests the Annascaul publican that Crean became after surviving two attempts on the Pole with Robert Falcon Scott and one with Ernest Shackleton. Vigorous and a little sly, Dooley’s Crean acknowledges the audience from first to last, serving up a pair of harrowing adventures as if they were bar nuts. Freeze-dried bar nuts.
Crean is also the subject of Michael Smith’s 2001 tome Tom Crean: Unsung Hero of the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic Expeditions. And the Irishman, despite having been awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry, is less well known than the Brit explorers under whom he served. Dooley’s terse explanation: “No diary — forgotten.” It’s a lapse the performer, who toured Ireland four times with his show and won the Best Solo Performance Award for its US debut at the 2003 New York International Fringe Festival, intends to rectify — even if it means going against one aspect of the real Crean’s grain. The retired explorer rarely tooted his horn or told his tale, partly out of modesty, partly because when he retired from the British navy and returned to County Kerry in 1920, it was in the heat of the Troubles and association with anything English, however heroic, could get a man killed.
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