One Arm: The Steamy, Southern Heart of Darkness


Tennessee Williams brought considerable talents to everything he wrote, even the never-produced screenplay for his short story One Arm.

Moises Kaufman (whose past work includes Oscar Wilde, Jonestown, and The Laramie Project) built an intriguing, 90-minute theatrical workout based on the screenplay. Any lover of Williams's work, or just fine acting and staging, should head to the Lab Theater this week to check out this local production directed by Joseph Stodola.

See also: One Arm Offers a New Look at Old Tennessee Williams's Story


The story centers on Ollie Olsen, who goes from being the boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet to a hustler after losing his arm in an auto accident. On the streets of New Orleans, New York, and other towns in between, Ollie descends into a heartless existence that eventually lands him on death row.

It's a seedy ride through the underbelly of mid-century America, where men speak in code to find furtive encounters, and Ollie's Greek-god-like looks make him a popular client.

The show is a workout for all six actors, led by Torsten Johnson as Ollie. For nearly the entire piece, Johnson's right arm is constricted with a leather belt, illustrating the lost limb. We also see the various states of his mind. The story flashes between Ollie in prison and the man on the road, and we see the very different people that he has been over the years.

This is Johnson's second remarkable performance in the last six months, as he starred in Mixed Blood's Colossal. He's joined by an impressive crew of actors who take on dozens of roles, including various johns played by Craig Johnson and Adam Qualls, and H. Adam Harris's drawling Southern writer and confidant.

One Arm is a densely packed 90 minutes that amps up the theatrical side of Williams's screenplay without ever losing sight of the characters that inhabit this fully realized world.


One Arm Through Sunday The Lab Theater 700 First St. N., Minneapolis $10-$25 For tickets and more information, call 612-333-7977 or visit online.