The Tennessee Williams Experience Reviews
En Avant! An Evening with Tennessee Williams
En Avant! wins “Excellence in Solo Performance” award from 2013 NYC International Fringe Festival.
Fuse Arts NY
William Shuman performs his one-man play exquisitely. He is dry-witted, quiet, yet still commanding. He takes on the persona of someone we sense we know well, yet he exposes a Williams that is, at times, quite new to us. Shuman’s version of Williams is human to a compelling fault, a man fully prepared to admit his failings, often at the cost of our appreciating his accomplishments.
One of the lasting impressions left by this production is how intimate the evening feels. Often bio-plays are hellbent on filling the stage with theatrical bravado…but not here. The play pokes and probes into the distant recesses of the author’s thoughts.
Shuman ennobles his version of Williams with a kind of brittle grace. The actor manages to look very much like the writer, and his Southern accent is on the mark. More important, Shuman seems to get at the emotional essence of the playwright, which is an impressive accomplishment.
Theatre Reviews Limited
Mr. Shuman presents Tennessee Williams with style and grace, not withholding faults and flaws that might have contributed to his isolation.
He shares his life with his characters and his liquor, as painful shockwaves from the past ignite memories that surface – with a smile. Mr. Shuman has
the incredible ability to capture an audience during these silent recognitive moments.
Mr. Shuman never falters as Tennessee, but keeps a steady path to deliver a brilliant, respectable and intriguing performance as he paints a colorful
yet tattered portrait of a complex character.
Look for this wonderful performance, hopefully in a future incarnation. It will satisfy and be well worth your time
Time Out NY (4 stars out of 5, critics’ choice selection)
Writer-performer William Shuman has distilled Williams’s private journals into an illuminating solo piece that spans the late playwright’s whole career and touches on his struggles with alcoholism, drugs, depression and his own homosexuality. The show is peppered with beautiful quotations and interesting trivia… the soft-spoken Shuman is endlessly endearing, and tugs at your heartstrings in his intimate rapport with the audience. You leave with a warm impression of Williams and a head full of his stunning language.
Shuman gives us a Tennessee who is gentle, thoughtful, somewhat disappointed and depressed, and quietly humorous. He relaxes in his large wicker chair, or strolls around his room, near his desk with a small stack of his works and an old-fashioned typewriter, or lounges on the stool near his whiskey bottle.
Shuman’s excellent portrayal is aided by snippets of smooth, slow jazz, including a rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”.
En Avant! gives us a pleasant excursion into the mind, heart, and struggles of one of America’s most significant and most enduring playwrights.
Always credible, always in character and always entertaining, under the subtle direction of Ruis Woertendyke, Shuman’s portrait of Williams as a conflicted artist is a biography that grows on you as his story progresses.
En Avant! is both persuasive and absorbing… By the end, Shuman has convinced you that you have met Williams and heard the most intimate and important details of his life.
Even if you typically run in the opposite direction from one-person shows, you should really make the exception for this one. Shuman’s easy-going manner is altogether winning.
Steve Capra Review
Shuman makes no attempt to impersonate his subject. But he’s wearing Williams’ signature white suit and Panama hat. Our actor has a charming southern accent, evident but not intrusive. He drinks in a way reflecting sharp observation and never suggesting drunkenness. The set is beautiful.
En Avant is one of the few plays that we’d like to see expanded, not because it needs to be fleshed out, but because we want more of a great thing.
Shuman, who also wrote the play, has clearly done his research — but even if he’d made everything up, I would have believed it: his acting is genius, every syllable and gesture delivered convincingly.
En Avant! makes for a most companionable and intimate theatrical evening.
Shuman creates a convincing “impression” of who Williams was. And, as he floridly riffs on the various aspects of this literary titan, he paces across the stage to pour himself a drink, settles into a patio chair, taps away at an old-fashioned typewriter, or waltzes around the performing space. It is evident that this is a labor of love. Shuman explores Williams’ rollercoaster career, his troubled family life, his alcohol and drug addictions, and his homosexuality. This reviewer relished every morsel parceled out on Williams.