Today I saw the last performance in the Fringe NYC festival of a play called “His Greatness” by Daniel Macivor. It offers a few scenes in the later life of Tennessee Williams. It has apparently been well received – well enough to be advanced to the “Fringe NYC Encore Series” for ten more performances downtown. I missed the rest of the Fringe this year, but if this ‘play’ made the top productions, I didn’t miss much.
The 3-person show offers Peter Goldfarb an entertaining romp as a southern playwright who opened up the modern age but didn’t necessarily stay in it. Although called “The Playwright,” there’s nothing subtle in this play, so accept that we’re talking about Tennessee Williams even if the program didn’t include photos of him. His “assistant” is played by Dan Domingues, and the young man hired as an opening night escort is played by Michael Busillo. Mr. Goldfarb and Mr. Busillo appear to be in a serious play, while Mr. Domingues played the assistant in full camp style until an emotional drunk scene at the end of the first act.
Tennessee used to tell a story about why homosexuals died in hotel fires (I remember clearly a hilariously sad conversation on the Dick Cavett Show. It is likely I didn't understand much of it, but I already knew I adored Tennessee). I kept thinking there’d be something really about Tennessee, something revelatory, insightful, something that was particularly about him that would drive this play from its beginning through to a satisfactory close. I was disappointed. Nothing at the end of the play differs from the beginning of the play. The playwright, seemingly the main character, does not take a journey of discovery. He is the same sad man living on his past genius and accolades in the final scene as he was in the opening monologue. The abused assistant may or may not have made a new choice – he has, we are told, made it before. And the boy – well, he’s a pretty boy earning a living on his looks while he can, which may not be for much longer.
The actors play the scenes well and develop real connections. The actors aren’t the problem here – it’s the play. What was the playwright trying to tell us? It’s not in the script, where it belongs. If director Tom Gualtieri knew what the playwright intended to say, he has made it no clearer. All in all, I could only be glad the play ran a neat 90 minutes.
Oh, what Tennessee said was the reason homosexuals died in hotel fires – back in the day when everyone smoked, they all most certainly smoked after sex. In the hotel bed. And then fell asleep.
When Tennessee told it, it seemed funny.