Tennessee Rising is a theatre piece that requires yet easily commands your full attention. The journey is made up of fascinating recounts of the life and times of young Tom Williams, from his first-person point of view, as he interacts with key figures that impacted, inspired and shaped the personal and professional life of the mid-twentieth century playwright that he metamorphoses into during the course of the play, Mr. Tennessee Williams. The stories begin with Williams as a youngster and continue to unfold all the way through Williams’ first great success with his play The Glass Menagerie.
This important new one-man play has all the key elements that promise and ultimately deliver great American Theatre. It is a timeless piece thanks to Storms’ ability as an actor and writer to compel the audience’s full attention and entice them to voyeuristically observe the very private experiences young Williams goes through as well as inviting them to hear Williams’ personal ruminations on the events as they are happening to him.
The stage is completely bare except for Playwright/Actor Jacob Storms and a single chair that he uses to embellish and dramatize the sequence of events. Storms eloquently and respectfully conveys Williams’ wit and personality through original dialogue written by Storms in addition to a smattering of Williams’ own thoughts and feelings filtered through Storms’ own abilities as a writer. The result gives the audience a microscopic view into the more vulnerable psyche of his subject.
The play has a bittersweet and deep focus on Williams’ love and devotion to his older sister, Rose, and the mental parallels of her experience with schizophrenia as compared to Williams own struggle with the prospect of losing his mind. Storms as Williams, brings his audience inside the complex and romantic mind of the Playwright, giving testimony to an emotional and fragile artist forever in doubt of his own abilities as he chases “the bitch goddess known as success.”
As the story concludes with The Glass Menagerie opening on Broadway, marking Williams’ first commercial hit and the completion of his self-made image into the acclaimed playwright we know and appreciate, we see his motivation and drive to find an audience after years of struggle as an unknown writer is eclipsed only by his desire to share his newfound success with his sister Rose who, despite being physically in this world, mentally and emotionally occupies another world entirely thanks to her schizophrenia and the lobotomy forced on her by her parents. By the finale of Tennessee Rising, we have a better understanding of the events that led to Williams’ becoming one of America’s greatest and most tormented playwrights as well as the most misunderstood. Not only is Tennessee Rising engaging but it is also historical and deeply revealing. Audiences will literally hang onto every word for fear of missing any nuance that packs this one-man play together with great satisfaction.
New York Live Arts
April 09, 2018
Playwright: Jacob Storms
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.