Pacino takes on Tennessee

If you’re anything like me (and I believe at least some of you are), you can never have enough Tennessee Williams.  Recently I dashed back to Boston to see Night of the Iguana with Elizabeth Ashley, Amanda Plummer and James Earl Jones.  Last week, it was a play about Tennessee Williams at the Pasadena Playhouse starring Al Pacino, Garrett Clayton and Judith Light.  This new play was billed as a “development production”, but it sure seemed pretty polished, from the star-laden cast to the swanky set to the ticket prices.  Mind you, I’m not complaining – the rare chance to see Al Pacino at work is worth every penny.

The play is a fascinating character study of the final years of Williams’ life told through the eyes of one of his last beaus, playwright Dotson Rader.  Onstage Rader was portrayed by Miles Gaston Villanueva, and if his name is not as familiar as his colleagues’, he was no less talented (or, for that matter, hunky).  Garrett Clayton has been on quite a roll.  He starred in King Cobra (based on gay porn pup Brent Corrigan), he was a lead in Hairspray: Live, and now he’s holding his own opposite Al Pacino.  That he’s holding his own clad in some skimpy undies only gilds the lily.  I must note the breathtaking Andrew Dits, who makes the most of one brief scene.  Judith Light, who never disappoints, tackles a character clearly based on the trustee of Williams’ legacy, Lady Maria St. Just – who has been described as neither a lady, nor a saint, nor just!  Light is one of those rare stage creatures who stalks rather than walks, who intones rather than recites, who becomes rather than acts.  She is never less than riveting.

It would all be for naught without a galvanizing presence at the center, and Pacino (or “Mr. P” as Light calls him) is certainly that.  In a masterful performance that could easily become a caricature, he etches a painfully nuanced portrait of an artist in decline.  He even captures Williams’ almost musical vocal cadence.  The play has some rough edges, but it’s a tantalizing morsel of things to come.  Should anyone want my notes, all they have to do is ask.  For once, I refrained from spouting my unsolicited opinions backstage.

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