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Tennessee in the Summer: Enough already with the tortured-artist melodramas 

Wednesday, Feb 11 2009
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What's intriguing about this play "suggested" by the life of Tennessee Williams is that the playwright is portrayed simultaneously by a man (Daniel Albright) and a woman (Alex Alexander). They embody an angel-devil–like conflict within the Pulitzer-Prize–winning writer that results in his rampant alcohol and pill abuse, anxiety, self-loathing, and excessive whoring around. Plenty of stage time is devoted to Williams' long and rocky romantic relationship with Frank Merlo. In this imagined depiction, Williams is repeatedly adulterous and emotionally abusive, painting quite an unsympathetic central character. The brief moments featuring his mother, Edwina, and sister, Rose — who received a lobotomy in a sanitarium — serve to underscore his persistent fear of going insane. Merlo even refers to him as a "19th-century hypochondriac." What's tedious about Joe Besecker's script is that there is no character arc; Williams' character is a mess at the beginning and a mess at the end. The result is an imagined and clichéd portrait of a writer crippled by sex, doubt, and drugs. In the end, the female side of Williams warns the male side, "Don't fall into the myth of the tortured artist." Unfortunately, this play wants to perpetuate just that.

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Nathaniel Eaton

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