I very much enjoyed opening night of En Avant!: An Evening with Tennessee Williams. William Shuman's one-man play meanders around Williams's life, giving us a kaleidoscope of reflections rather than a linear telling of the writer's life story. Fortunately, it goes beyond just the highlights, telling us the stories behind even some of Williams's lesser known works.
For instance, when Shuman relates the story of Williams's relationship with Kip Kiernan, the young dancer he met in Provincetown, he acknowledges it as the inspiration behind The Parade, or Approaching the End of Summer. Only as an afterthought does he mention that he later turned that one-act play into Something Cloudy, Something Clear.
One of the highlights of the show is the part recounting Williams's time in Mexico, getting away from it all down on the coast while all of his checks and telegrams went to his old hotel in Mexico City. That experience surely helped to inspire The Night of the Iguana, though Shuman is clear that Williams's work is not always autobiographical.
"My mother was not Amanda," the play tells us flat-out. "And I was not Tom." Still, so much of Williams's life informed his work, and En Avant helps to illuminate many of those fascinating connections.
The play is showing at the New York International Fringe Festival until Saturday, August 24th. You can get the full schedule here:
En Avant!: An Evening with Tennessee Williams