How long has it been since you read a play? Usually read novels?
Our book club selection for December is A Streetcar Named Desire. Not your cup of tea for Christmas reading maybe, but —
as it turned out it only took about three hours to read—-and it reads like the wind!
The writing is clear as crystal—and the stage directions are brief and set the tone perfectly for reading. This reading was a piece of cake!
The play was presented in 1947 on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Circle Award—so you’re in good company as you read along!
The recipe? Take two sisters, raised in southern genteel surroundings, split them apart for a few years as one marries “beneath her” and the other—well, tries to find her way, and then bring them back together again.
Of course, you saw the movie a while back so you can’t get Marlon Brando out of your mind as Stanley Kowalski, and this might be one of those times when the movie trumps the book, but right now you’re reading, so let your imagination float a bit as you picture Stella Kowalski and Blanche DuBois, the sister who comes for a visit.
The scene is New Orleans—with an almost constant backdrop of blues piano tinkling around the corner . . .and the music! “I declare” Tennessee Williams writes the play so well that music becomes a part of your reading and breathing! Wailing blues, moaning blues and . . .and “Paper Moon” for heaven’s sake!
The three–Stella, Stanley and Blanche are living in pretty tight quarters—a “front” room, (with a cot for Blanche), a bedroom, and a “narrow door to the bathroom”. Yep, I’ve got the layout in my mind.
According to Blanche, the old homestead, Belle Rive, has been lost, foreclosed on, through no fault of her own, but Stanley suspects that Blanche ran through whatever money there was. But Stella isn’t so sure, and listens as Blanche relates how she went to “Miami last Christmas”—“as an investment, thinking I’d meet someone with a million dollars.”
The first half of the play is pretty amusing—lots of humor, sarcastic and otherwise, but things start getting a bit raw. There’s a raucous poker game, and rumors about Blanche’s past begin to cause trouble—-heightening the tension between Blanche and Stanley.
Blanche keeps up a valiant pose to the end–perhaps declining to admit her past even, or especially, to herself. And Stella remains Stella–sweet, naive and loving.
Can you hear the piano? Can you hear the blues being played in the “quarter”? Will you read the play?