Joanna's Reviews > A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
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's review
Feb 11, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: plays, books-read-2011
Read in February, 2011

I picked this up because this year is the centennial of Tennessee Williams' birth, and I'd never read it before.

It feels very much like a piece from a bygone era of theater. The characters are nuanced and memorable, the plot is straight forward, and the lines and cadences have a good bit of poetry in them.

"What you are talking about is brutal desire-just-Desire!-the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and and down another..."

"Haven't you ever ridden on that street-car?"

"It brought me here.-Where I'm not wanted and where I'm ashamed to be."

It credits the audience with intelligence and discernment, to know and understand that there is more being discussed than on the surface.

Even the stage directions are rather gorgeous, in their way.

"It is first dark of an evening early in May. The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river beyond the river warehouses with their faint redolences of bananas and coffee."

Do plays today still give you a sense of what a scene should smell like? Because Williams is excellent at that sort of thing. You feel the steam in the bathroom, smell the sticky perfume and the alcohol.

This did produce two extremely memorable stage roles in Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, and a lot of stand out scenes - especially when Mitch forces Blanche to be looked at in the light, and Blanche's being led off stage by the doctor from the mental institution while uttering her famous line about the kindness of strangers - but I don't think the story itself is especially durable.

Although the class tension itself is timeless, the way that it is expressed feels kind of dated. And the depiction of the main relationships between men and women are so brutal and animalistic that I'd at least like to think that we've evolved beyond that, at least a little, in the past sixty years.

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