Letters From Tennessee: A Distant Country Called Youth | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Letters From Tennessee: A Distant Country Called Youth

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Adapted by Steve Lawson from The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams, Volume I: 1920-1945, this solo piece debuted in 2001 at the Manhattan Theatre Club, where it was performed by Robert Sean Leonard. Now the Goodman Theatre complements its stirring revival of Williams's 1950 The Rose Tattoo by treating audiences to local actor Guy Adkins's one-night rendition of Lawson's script. Letters From Tennessee illuminates the evolution of Thomas Lanier Williams from eager, idealistic teenager to struggling young poet to "the gentile Clifford Odets," poised for greatness. The material--by turns raunchy, campy, sweet, angry--offers glimpses into Williams's professional ups and downs ("I am pretty sick over the whole thing but suppose I'll survive it," he writes after the 1941 failure of Battle of Angels) and his reckless personal life: "I went out cruising last night and brought home something with a marvelous body....The evils of promiscuity are exaggerated....I think one picks a rose from each person, each of a somewhat different scent and color." The evening climaxes with the success of The Glass Menagerie--and with some delicious gossip about the play's progress, including leading man Eddie Dowling's suggestion for a happy ending: "Laura with the brace removed ('orthopedics do such wonderful things!') and the gentleman caller standing again at the door!" Also evident is Williams the poet-philosopher: "We are both standing on the outside of reality," he wrote to a friend, "looking in [at] this welter of broken pieces, wreckage, that floats on the surface of life." Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800. Monday, January 27, 7 PM. $10-$20.

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