February 13, 2009


Rita Moreno - Courtesy Photo... Burn the Floor

Picture: A scene from "Tennessee in the Summer"



In this look at the life of the great playwright Tennessee Williams, Playwright Joe Besecker has crafted a taut tale about the life of a troubled and famous man. The darkly droll dialogue brings up visions of Maggie (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and the Glass Menagerie.) After seeing this play I’m convinced that Williams saw in himself, Maggie the Cat, and Elizabeth Taylor from “Suddenly.”

Tennessee in the Summer takes place more than a decade before Williams died. Besecker’s play was also written before the Death of Williams. Like Guare’s “Landscape of the Body” this play uses flashbacks. Also sometimes confusing is the use of another person (a woman) who plays the feminine side of Williams. It was no secret that T.W. liked the company young male actors. Of course, they all claimed to adore him (thinking that he might just be their ticket to fame.) Although, in the play Williams did say that age did not make any difference. All he wanted was the sexual experience and he didn’t care what their age was. Never the less, his long time Lover was very young. The non-linear plot is a little difficult to follow. But, after awhile – you get into the rhythm of it and the powerful and propulsive acting takes you through the complex mind of what might have gone on in T.W’s mind.

William’s life was torrid. Sure he was famous, but what we see in the play is a man who is tormented by his life, his family, his mother and his sister. The sister even had him committed to a mental hospital at one point. Drinking played a major part in the Demons that ran rampant through his mind.

The show overflows with powerful and explosive prose. It’s a compelling study of one of America’s greatest talents. The cast has remarkable chemistry. The volatile and erotic chemistry between the two actors that play Tennessee (Dale Albright) and his partner Jeremy Forbing) is extremely emotional. The sister who had TW locked up (Annamarie MacLeod) is heartfelt – like she just walked out of “Glass Menagerie.

And to top it all off, the set with it’s peeling Wallpaper on the walls gives this interesting story the claustrophobic feeling that really will undo any cheerfulness you might be inclined to feel. If you are a fan of Tennessee Williams – then you’re gonna love this play. Even if you don’t care much for TW, it’s chock-full of surprises.



(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook section and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))


IT WAS A RARE GIFT THE AUDIENCE RECEIVED AT THE POST STREET THEATRE (a benefit for Lyon-Martin Health Services, Maitri and Sunburst Projects).
The evening of song, Dance and comedy was a Valentine Benefit that was this winter’s most pleasing surprises!”

The “Burn the Floor” set was just fantastic, and made a perfect backdrop for the talent on the stage. The lighting was divine and the talent was “%#&*ing thrilling. The comedy was hilarious, the singing was moving and the dancing by the “Burn the Floor” cast sent sparks out to the audience. Wow! What a marvelous dance show it is! You’ve got to see these guys and gals. I’m surprised the paint on the walls didn’t melt.

Jo Anne Worley sang a couple of naughty songs and one with Wilson Cruz &* Danny Gurwin. (Laughing Matters from the musical “When Pigs Fly,” It was a hoot and the comedy highlight of the night. Like a Ghost singer Tim Hockenberry sang the best version of “Somewhere” (West Side Story) that I have ever heard. I say like a Ghost, because he appeared on stage in foggy lights, the matches his foggy style of singing. He also has a new look. His hair is different, he slim trim and still handsome. TH played his own accompaniment on the piano. To a rousing applause and cheers from the audience. He left in even more clouded lighting and disappeared. No bows, no waves. He came and went as mysteriously as he appeared. Like a Ghost. Well, Frank Sinatra told me once in an interview when I was a cub reporter: “Always leave them wanting more Kid.” He always did, and so did Hockenberry.

Just Devine was Loretta Devine when she sang “I Believe in You and Me” from ‘The Preachers Wife’. And now I believe more than ever in her. It reminded me why I always loved to listen to her. And “Tuck Andress & Patti Cathcart” sang the complex, but intriguing “Let’s Bring Heaven Down here”. It was a magnificently moving performance.

“Doing Matador – Paso Doble”…the Cast of Burn The Floor really heat things up with potent, and sexy dance moves. Starring Damian Whitewood, Peta Morgatroyd, Robin Windson, Katarina Stumpfova. Later on, more of the Cast did a heated “Tanguera” – starring Damon & Rebecca Sugden, Kiron Kulik, Jeremy Garner, Kevin Clifton and Henry Byalikov.

The undeniably cool and beautifully voiced Rita Moreno was in top form. She wore a gorgeous white gown, looking just great as she gave a ‘blow-you-away’ version of “I Won’t Send Roses” from “Mack & Mabel”. The audience went berserk.

I thought to myself – now how can anyone match or top that? Well, K.T. Sullivan answered that question with a powerhouse version of “Colored Lights” from “The Rink”.
With Jon Weber at the Piano – K.T.s “Lights” became pure perfection. It was huge and impressive. Again – the audience went wild with breathless applause.

There were so many impressive talents on the stage: Here are the others: Sony Holland, Shawn Ryan (did a wonderful song (comic) called I kissed a girl), Meg MacKay and Billy Philadelphia. Then Spencer Day sang a song that he wrote – “A Better Way”, and Sharon McNight did a spin on Marlena Dietrich (Lily’s Song.) Terese Genecco came through with an Arlen and Mercer song. RJ Helton did a great ‘Canto de Amor’ and the once in a lifetime evening ended with the cast of “Burn” with their “hot” version of “Proud Mary”. And…when I say HOT – it was extremely HOT! Catch their show at the Post Theatre and support REAF that puts on these marvelous evenings of entertainment to support non-profits. The next one up with be in the summer at Club Fuguzi with the cast of ‘Wicked” and the Cast of “Grease”. You won’t want to miss that one.

Thanks to: Producers Joe Seiler and Ken Henderson, Producer, who as usual produced another Landmark evening of entertainment. Thanks guys -- for all your work.

(((Follow Lee on “Twitter”, beyondchron.org or just Google him.)))

TAGS: Joe Seiler, Ken Henderson, REAF, Grease, Wicked, Club Fuguzi, Proud Mary, Post Street Theatre, Tuck and Patti, Musical, Music, Celebs, Tennesse Williams, Joe Besecker, New Conservatory Theatre, Spencer Day, Rita Moreno, K.T. Sullivan, Burn the Floor, Tim Hockenberry, Jo Anne Worley, Marlena Dietrich.



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