Goodspeed Opera's old-fashioned jewel -- and a new Williams drama; 'Moose Lodge,' is a Williams' one-acter

"TEnnessee Laughs" is an unlikely title for an evening of one-act plays by an author whose works are hardly known for their humorous content. Yet that is how Tennessee Williams's recent world premiere, tagged together with two previously written one-acts, was billed at the Goodman Theater's studio theater here.

There were some funny moments, to be sure, in "Some Problems for the Moose Lodge," whose plot concerns a couple just back from attending the funeral of their eldest son. But in typical Williams style the greater impression was of the tragedy inherent in the lives of sometimes very touching characters. The major flaw in Williams's latest drama is apparent, however: While making terse comment upon the problems in today's society, including inflation and old age, he tends to throw in a sad and sometimes offensive array of characters -- which occasionally has the look of pandering to public taste.

Yet with gemlike lines here and there, Williams has given us a compelling glimpse into sometimes credible people. The very fact that the same actors who had just appeared in his earlier one-acts, "A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot" and "The Frosted Glass Coffin," were transformed into Southerners worthy of empathy where they had seemed mere amateurs before intermission, tells us something about the playwright's improvement over the last two efforts.

Williams insists that chicago is full of talented actors. "I wouldn't have considered casting it elsewhere," he says.

As Chicago's only true regional theater, standing midway between the commercial downtown theaters and the experimental offLoop neighborhood contingent, the Goodman continues with "Tennessee Laughs" its consideration of the sort of premieres that spawned David Mamet.

Williams has hopes to return here annually -- "if,"m he says, "I'm not too outrageous for them.

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