I had the great pleasure of covering His Greatness, a play based on the last years of Tennessee Williams, at Toronto’s Factory Theatre this week. I have to say that I didn’t know a lot about Mr. Williams other than the fact that he was a highly acclaimed Southern American playwright.
The program describes the show as a potentially true story about the playwright, and although I have no reference to say whether it is true one way or another I can only say that it felt very genuine to me.
I got there early enough to take in the set and let the anticipation build which can sometimes be counterproductive, but I’m glad I did as the show reeled me right in and I wasn’t disappointed. This was the best show I have seen in a while. As I write this review I feel immense pressure to be able to do it justice.
Like I said, I didn’t know quite what to expect but the one thing I didn’t expect was for this show to be funny. The mature wit and humour was very refreshing and kept the audience laughing all the way through.
My favourite part about the show is that it’s simple. The set is a hotel suite and there are no crazy props, no dramatic sound effects, and no set changes. The entire show rests entirely on the pure talent of the actors and makes the performance very intimate, at least in my opinion.
The play is set in 1980s Vancouver and recounts the opening day of Williams’ show at a time when his career is in a downward spiral and the world has seemed to have outgrown him. The only person that stands beside him and puts up with his tantrums is his faithful assistant. The show takes us on a journey that shows us an angry, emotionally immature man who might go down in history as a great man but is no longer a great playwright.
The cast of three blew me away. Each actor played their role so perfectly that I seemed to forget that I was watching a show. Richard Donat plays the great playwright; Greg Gale is the handsome escort and Daniel McIvor does a fantastic job as the assistant.
A line that really stayed with me was, “Theatre is my church and art is my God.” I think it really helps you get a sense of the man behind the greatness and everything he held sacred in his life. Being a washed-up former genius is a difficult adjustment and one that can turn anyone into an angry alcoholic who throws childish temper tantrums.
My show partner for the evening was Lucy Eveleigh, fellow MoT writer, who also loved the show. It was obvious by the end of the show that she was really moved by it and said it was one of the best shows she’s seen in a while. There were moments that were very real and heartbreaking.
I would recommend this show to everyone. Whether you know anything about Tennessee Williams or not, you have to watch this show. It’s great theatre and although the subject matter seems heavy it’s done in a very funny, entertaining way.
- His Greatness
- Written by Daniel McIvor
- Directed by Ed Roy
- Runs from September 20 to October 23, 2011 at Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St
- Performances: Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, additional matinee Saturday at 2pm, Sunday show at 3pm.
- Tickets: $40 to $60 with limited PWYC for Sunday matinee
- For tickets and information call 416 504 9971 or visit www.factorytheatre.ca
Photo credit to Dean Baker. In photo: Ricahard Donat as the “Playwright”.