Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reader's Diary #1028- Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire

What I had known about Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" up until now had come solely from the Simpsons "A Streetcar Named Marge" spoof. That and Elaine's "Stellaaaaahhhh" moment on Seinfeld, but that wasn't as helpful as the former.

In any case, I loved the play. I really appreciated the extremes of Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois. While they were, as were all the characters in the play, delusional to varying degrees, a reader's tolerance is tested under all sorts of circumstances. I wanted for instance, to find feel some sort of sympathy for Stanley, but then he crosses some lines that are so appalling that I simply gave up trying and hated him. In Blanche I had started from the opposite end, resenting her snobbishness but then finding myself forgiving her, once more of her story was revealed. Interestingly, Williams seems to suggest that society at large has the opposite response, tolerating the Stanleys of the world but not the Blanches, or at the very least the way they deal with their disappointments in life. The supporting characters also deal with themes of desire and coping with reality but with greater subtlety to balance out the great extremes.

Having heard so much about the legendary performances of this play (most notably Marlon Brando), I wasn't sure if reading it would work. What if it was the acting, directing, sets and so forth that had made the play (just as bad performances can ruin a great written piece)? But before each scene Williams adds notes, I presume originally intended to let the director know what he was going for. For example:
The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay.
From a reader's point of view such details add so much more to the experience that I feel the play can stand on its own in the written form. Williams also does a remarkable job using the music and setting of New Orleans in complementing the mood of the story— though in contrast to his characters, I think the city does have this life thing figured out.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I had no idea that the play was so full of really rather poetic detail. What a nice surprise. Up until now all I really knew about this play was white wife-beater shirt.