Moises Kaufman’s adaptation of an unproduced Tennessee Williams screenplay (based on Williams’s 1945 short story) is the offbeat tale of a one-armed hustler prowling the sexual underworlds of New Orleans and New York in the years before Pearl Harbor. Forced into gay prostitution because he can’t find a regular job, Ollie–brilliantly played by Reynaldo Rosales in this world premiere–is a “broken Apollo” whose closeted customers are as turned on by his mutilation as his muscles. But Ollie isn’t just street meat–he’s a complex young man whose emotional transformations comprise the core of this powerful work. Kaufman has scrapped some of the screenplay’s more dated dialogue and contributed new material, but he retains Williams’s distinctive mix of brutality and tenderness, poetry and pathos, grit and gallows humor. Rosales is supported by a strong ensemble under Kaufman’s sensitive direction. Written in a much more repressive era than our own, the erotically ambiguous material is just as provocative in the playfully out-and-proud culture that’s spawned Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. That, along with Rosales’s charismatic performance, gives this Steppenwolf/About Face/Tectonic Theater Project coproduction a special haunting power. Through 12/19: Tue-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, downstairs theater, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650 (TTY 312-335-3830), $20-$55.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.