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LA Theater Review

The Crocodile Sings

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In his final years, Tennessee Williams made frequent personal appearances during which he talked about his life as a playwright, his plays, and the many celebrities he met because of his work. In Joe Parrish's 80-minute performance, subtitled "An Evening With Tennessee Williams," culled from the many interviews Williams gave throughout his life, Parrish approximates what it would have been like to attend such an event. The persona he and director SP Callaway paint is more vulgar and much less delicate and poetic than any of the famed playwright's works. With utter candor, Williams relays a string of anecdotes, some poetic, some bawdy. We hear about the great stage actor Laurette Taylor, revered by her peers but today all but unknown; the young Marlon Brando; the fragile Montgomery Clift; and the blunt Tallulah Bankhead. There are the painful revelations about the 1961 death of his longtime companion, the decline of his career in the 1960s, and the inability of the critics to find merit in any of his works following Night of the Iguana.

All the while, Parrish wanders the stage, often taking a seat or pouring himself a few sips from a decanter. The actor makes the text seem spontaneous and, in the process, highlights the challenges of the one-person format. Audiences may know about Williams' drug addiction or his homosexuality but are sure to learn more about Williams than they might have expected. Here, Williams ultimately admits that loneliness, from which he always suffered, was the constant theme of his work; that he loved the theatre and loved writing for it; and that he was certain he would be remembered only as a minor playwright, proving that the one thing Williams wasn't was a gauge of his plays' astonishing grasp of human nature and of how that acuity would be prized long after he was gone.

Presented by and at Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton.
April 18May 9. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.
(714) 525-4484 or www.stagesoc.org

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