By Chance Morgan
Tennessee Williams is best remembered as the Pulitzer‑winning playwright of “The Glass Menagerie,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and many other iconic works. However, he is not often remembered as a man with his own struggles, loves, passions, and adventures. In “An Evening With Tennessee Williams,” Sebastian Galvez steps into the shoes of the legendary writer to tell Williams’ own, rather remarkable story.
The play begins as it means to go on, with Mr. Galvez‑as‑Williams inviting the audience into his life story as a Southern gentleman welcoming old friends in his home. He quite calmly lights a cigarette, pours a drink, and begins to tell his tale. One can sense the soul of a storyteller at work, especially when lines from Williams’ plays are effortlessly woven into the text: “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”
There is a distinct eloquence in the language, and an exquisite vulnerability in the performance that enchants as easily and completely as any of Williams’ plays. Mr. Galvez perfectly exhibits the silver‑tongued cleverness one would expect from the iconic writer, but also the very human heart of that same man. He shares amusing anecdotes, tender moments, and heartbreaking regrets with the beautiful verbiage that Williams was known for.
Among the more extraordinary moments in the play are when the words of Williams’ plays are used when he addresses the people he loved. He mourns his sister Rose’s lobotomy by comparing her to the broken unicorn in “The Glass Menagerie,” and tells his partner Frank, “I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be,” when Frank is dying of cancer.
The play ends with a heart‑wrenching reenactment of Williams’ death, asphyxiating on a plastic bottle cap, drunk and miserable in a New York hotel room. After the death, Mr. Galvez‑as‑Williams addresses the audience directly and plainly, urging them to pursue their dreams, to love, to “do what you were created to do.” He bids the audience farewell, leaving them with a line from “Camino Real”: “There is a time for departure, even when there’s no certain place to go.”
Tennessee Williams was, without question, one of the great playwrights of the twentieth century, and his own life story is just as quietly, tragically beautiful as the greatest of his plays. Mr. Galvez’s performance as Williams is haunting, humorous, human, and humbling, all at once. For a brief time, Tennessee Williams himself returns to New York City to enchant yet another audience, and he more than succeeds.
“An Evening With Tennessee Williams”
Written and Performed by Sebastian Galvez
Directed by Paul Sand
October 12 at 4 PM
Photo: Courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
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CHANCE MORGAN is a writer and director currently based in New Jersey. He has worked for Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and Bay Street Theatre. He is a graduate of Colorado Mesa University’s theatre program, and spends his time developing his screenplays and musicals.