Jacob Storms’s Tennessee Rising is super-gay! From the subject, Tennessee Williams, to the director, Alan Cumming, to even the curtain announcement by none other than Drag Race champion Jinkx Monsoon! This one-man show is also very frank about Williams’s dalliances with men, in provocative detail. It follows Tennessee from 1939 through the Broadway premiere of The Glass Menagerie in 1945, also including many flashbacks to his childhood and youth. Storm is a skilled and canny writer-performer who covers this crucial time in the playwright’s life in Williams’s own voice.
In addition to tracing Williams’s career and love life, it delves into his very close relationship with his troubled older sister Rose. In a very effective moment, while Tenn talks about her mental health problems, a dark blue light illuminates another part of the stage. Williams based Laura in Glass Menagerie on Rose, and at one point Laura talks about confusing the lung disease pleurosis for “blue roses.” Nice touch. The play also delves into Williams’s worries about his own mental health, which he terms his “blue devils.”
Storms also mimics Williams southern accent more effectively than other portrayals I’ve seen. Tennessee Rising also captures the spirit of the Tennessee I know – from my extensive reading about the man – more honestly and accurately than most. Equally important, Storms’s writing mirrors Williams’s literary style with great finesse. Highly recommended.
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For more more about Jonathan Warman’s directing works, see jonathanwarman.wordpress.com.