With humor, 'serious stuff,' Williams' world comes to life

March 24, 2011 10:20:00 AM

Garthia Elena Burnett -

 

Even in his early career, Tennessee Williams tackled timeless issues plaguing individuals and society. 

 

In "The Strangest Kind of Love," Williams introduces the audience to Little Man, a very reserved man not suited for the world of manual labor in which he is thrust, explains Jonathan Warman of New York. Warman is director of the four-act play, which will make its Columbus debut, Friday, as part of local events celebrating Williams'' 100th birthday. 

 

"It''s early Tennessee Williams, and it shows that he was talented at writing very interesting stuff, from the very beginning," Warman said. 

 

The play, based on Williams'' short story "The Malediction," is set at the end of the Depression in an industrial town. 

 

"It''s Tennessee Williams, so there''s some serious stuff going on, but it''s meant to be funny," Warman said. 

 

Taking a break from rehearsal at the Omnova Theatre in Columbus, Wednesday, cast members identified an array of themes tackled by the story -- loneliness, survival, finding love in unlikely places and just muddling through life. 

 

"I''m excited to do it here ... as one solid piece," said Wayne Henry of New York, who plays the lead character. The last time Henry portrayed Little Man, in 2009, in Provincetown Tenn., the group was among six groups of actors rotating rooms in a hotel to perform different Tennessee Williams plays as part as the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival. 

 

"Also, it''s exciting to do it in his birthplace," Henry added. "It''s becoming more and more obvious that he referenced the people around him." 

 

Michele Tauber (the Landlady) of Long Branch. N.J. was surprised by the humor and tone of the play. 

 

"It''s got a lot more hope in it than other Tennessee Williams stories," Tauber said. "That was surprising, that he did not stay true to his short story, that he wanted to ... give it a happy ending." 

 

"The Malediction," she said, is darker. 

 

"The play is more romantic than the short story," Charles Schick (Old Man) of New York agreed. 

 

Schick, who also was in the hotel performances of the play in Tennessee, offered a variety of themes. 

 

"It''s about several things -- outsiders, people who have a hard time adjusting to the world. They have poetic souls and a fragile psyche ... so they have to survive in this world while keeping that intact." 

 

Little Man, he said, is Everyman, "just trying to live." 

 

For Tauber, the play is about "survival of the fittest." 

 

Nick Ronan of New York plays the boxer, one of the "survivors of this hard world" who preys on people like Little Man. 

 

"The boxer is like a lion inviting the mouse into his den to toy with it," Ronan says of his character. 

 

Schick hopes the audience can identify with the characters and "make a deeper connection with humanity." 

 

"Ideally, they could take away from it similarities in how the world is today," Ronan said. 

 

"The Strangest Kind of Romance" has two showings on Friday at the Omnova Theatre in the Rosenzweig Arts Center in downtown Columbus, at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 and can be purchased at the Arts Center. The center also offers lunch at the 12:30 showing, for an additional cost; lunch-and-play tickets are $15. For more information, call the RAC at 662-328-2787. 

 

 

 

 

 

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS 100TH BIRTHDAY EVENTS 

 

Today 

 

· Big Band Concert: A big band concert with Gill Harris and the Big Band Theory begins at 8 p.m. at Trotter Convention Center, featuring some of Williams'' known favorites. Tickets are $10 ($5 for balcony seating), or $100 for reserved tables. For tickets or information, contact the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-920-3533. 

 

 

 

Today and Friday 

 

· Lunch and a Play: "The Strangest Kind of Romance" has two showings on Friday at the Omnova Theatre in the Rosenzweig Arts Center in downtown Columbus, at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 and can be purchased at the Arts Center. The center also offers lunch at the 12:30 showing, for an additional cost; lunch-and-play tickets are $15. For more information, call the Columbus Arts Council at 662-328-2787. 

 

Saturday 

 

· 100th birthday: To celebrate the actual 100th birthday of Tennessee Williams, the public is invited to enjoy cake and tours at the Welcome Center and Museum (the playwright''s first home), 300 Main St. (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m).; see "Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," with a director''s Q&A, at Malco Theater at 11 a.m. ($5); attend the unveiling of historic markers at 2 p.m. at Trustmark Bank, 624 Main St., and St. Paul''s Episcopal Church, 318 College St. For information, contact the CVB at 800-920-3533. 

 

· Arts Council Gala: The annual Columbus Arts Council gala features silent and live auctions, live music by Big Jim and the Hotshots, delicious food and a celebration of Tennessee Williams at the Rosenzweig Arts Center from 7-11 p.m. Tickets are $40 at the RAC, 501 Main St.; or call 662-328-2787.