Written by Daniel MacIvor and directed by David Zak, His Greatness is set in a hotel room in Vancouver over the course of two days. The show brings to life a character inspired by the later years of Tennessee Williams: a playwright whose propensity for alcohol and drugs renders him unable for daylight, unable to teach, and even unable to control his own bodily functions.
The play, which runs for the second week of the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2018, centres around three characters: Williams, his personal assistant, and an escort hired for the evening to grace the elder gentleman’s side at the opening night of Williams’ final work.
His Greatness begins with an afflicted Williams, still reeling from the previous night’s debauchery, awoken by his personal assistant and former lover to prepare him for a phone interview, in advance of the premiere of his play later that evening.
After a little lubrication to get him ready, the lead’s interaction with the interviewer goes from open and positive to defensive, showcasing the tempestuous relationship this artist, writer of seminal plays including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire, had with the press.
When Williams was in Vancouver with a staging of his final play, The Red Devil Battery Sign, the great American playwright’s eccentricities left quite the impression on the locals, by all accounts. Stories of how Williams showed up drunk to rehearsals or hired escorts to strip and read from the Bible were just a couple of examples of the playwright’s many eccentricities.
His Greatness delves into the uncertainties, depression, anxiety and substance abuse issues that were part of Williams, a genius whose inability to set down the bottle left him incontinent, suffering from gout and devoid of inspiration. His character is so hopelessly flawed that, although a flicker of hope is kindled for him and his career, it is quickly snuffed out when the ‘vulgar’ sun intrudes the following day.
With minimal set design or props, the 75-minute show relies primarily on dialogue and delivery to pull the audience in and hold attention, and it does so to great effect. His Greatness is thoroughly engaging throughout, with a strong and memorable performance from Danne W. Taylor as Williams.
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