"Mr. Williams Pays a Call"

Five of Tennessee Williams' least-known one-acts prove to be a treat for the playwright's fans

Class Act Theatre offers an alternative for those who love Tennessee Williams but have read his play about a painfully shy girl and her tiny glass animals one too many times. An evening of the playwright's little-known one-acts, "Mr. Williams Pays a Call" presents five short, rarely produced pieces that take place mainly in the South. Though the productions feel more like writing exercises or character sketches than complete dramas, for true Williams fans it's a treat to see his most famous characters in their embryonic stages. For instance, in The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, the character of "Woman" (many of his creations are unnamed) bears a striking resemblance to Williams' Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire as she tells tall tales to her landlady about a fictitious plantation somewhere back home. A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot-- a comic piece about two catty women who insist on pointing out each other's physical flaws in the name of friendship -- oozes Blanche as well. Traces of various characters from The Glass Menagerie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roofare also embedded in the fabric of these pieces, all of which exist within Williams' signature settings: stale, static spaces that find disconnected people living in alternating states of dainty delusion and raw realization. The strongest of the five plays is Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, in which two people try desperately to find a way back to each other after being torn apart by poverty and alcoholism. Well acted and staged, Talk to Me realistically illuminates the perpetuity of despair present in the lives of ordinary people. The other four feel less polished and complete -- but then, they don't try to be so. Instead, they're merely insights into Williams' process. Despite the awful acoustics in the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House theater (the playwright himself could likely hear audience members clearing their throats), the actors give earnest performances that examine the workings of Williams' young mind.

 
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