By Tennessee Williams
Directed by David Kaplan
As part of Naked July Art Stripped Down
At National Pastime Theater
Unique lost Tennessee Williams one act is riveting
Tennessee Williams’ 1960 one-act play, rediscovered in 1991, is presented as part of National Pastime Theater’s Naked July Art Stripped Down event dedicated to showing off the beauty of the human body. Williams’ provocative work is a translation of Japanese Noh drama into performance art. The text is subtitled “An Occidental Noh Play,” but it also echoes the practices of the Japanese group of painters and sculptors who call themselves the Gutai. As in Gutai works, in The Day On Which A man Dies paintings are created and destroyed in the course of a performance, the bodies of the performers are painted, and the setting is made of paper.
This work was a triumph of emotions for Jeff Christian (The Man) who plays the agonized, drunken American painter frustrated with his lost creative force. Christian was outstanding as was his lover of 11 years, Jennie Moreau (The Woman). Picture a man naked except for a G-string, covered in red/yellow paint, using spry paint on himself and his canvas in a desperate attempt to regain his creative muse. He is drunk, nasty and deeply depressed. He argues with his lover as she asks what is her legal status with him after 11 years as his lover in light of his stating that his is shortly going to die.
Williams was strongly influenced when his friend, Jackson Pollack and his Japanese writer friend Yukio Mishima both committed “inspirational” suicides. This play demonstrates Williams’ deep haunting from his friends untimely deaths. He deftly explores the frenzied hunt an artist makes while trying to find new means of expression. David Kaplan’s production is deep, haunting and most disturbing while capturing the essence of Noh drama and Gutai practices. It is a fantasia on the demise of Jackson Pollack. It is like no other Tennessee Williams play I’ve witnessed. It is worth seeing.
At National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, Call 773-327-7077, tickets $20, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through August 1, 2009