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The Gentleman Caller
By: Phillip Dawkins
Reviewed by: Frank West
Wow! What acting! The performances are vivid, dynamic, and intimate. The play has only two actors. And they are on the stage for the whole two hours. The actors are Rudy Galvan, who plays Tennessee Williams, and Curtis Edward Jackson, as William Inge.
Thanks to director Cody Estle for eliciting those great performances. The result is a fine example of the transformative power of theatre. Quoting the press release: “The Gentleman Caller is based on the true story of the meeting, friendship, and sexual tryst of Tennessee Williams and William Inge.”
The play “imagines what might have happened behind closed doors…They are now regarded as two of America’s finest playwrights, but in the fall of 1944, Inge was a dissatisfied arts critic for the ‘St. Louis Star Times,’ and Tennessee was an ‘emerging’ playwright yet to experience anything close to success. As Tennessee bides time in St. Louis before the Goodman theater, pre-Broadway try-out of the play he was entitling ‘The Gentleman Caller,’ critic Inge invites the young playwright to his garden apartment for a supposed interview and hopeful tryst. When the two are reunited in a Chicago hotel room after witnessing Tennessee’s masterful play, retitled ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ it sparks a relationship which radically alters the…American Theatre.”
The play encourages us to accept ourselves. And what makes us the way we are? Tennessee answers the question: “A playwright is made the same as anyone else—by their parents.” And he says in a quote that is not from the play: “Everybody is nothing until they are loved.”
The Gentleman Caller will be produced now through May 27 at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. in Chicago. Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:30pm. Tickets range from $32-$46. Every Thursday is “Under 30 Thursday,” when patrons under 30 can purchase tickets for $15. Box office: 773-338-2177 or raventheatre.com

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