Last night I re-read Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. So interesting to have another look at them after a long time and with a (slightly) more developed theatrical awareness. I found myself really gunning for Stanley and thinking that the entire tragedy of Streetcar pivots on his failure of empathy. Although Blanche’s nervous hysteria seems as dated a mode of expression as Stanley’s macho violence. They both seem, from a distance of 60 years, to be victims of their own need to play certain roles (What’s that? Awkwardly applying postmodernist ideas to a play produced in the 1940s? It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want 😉
The Glass Menagerie is an infinitely more delicate play, as the title suggests. It’s such a small, everyday tragedy. Williams’s preface is very interesting and his notion of the absent presence of the gentleman caller – the absurdity of the notion that the entire family waits for his entrance – seems to pre-empt Godot in a very interesting way. The expressionist devices used throughout seem both dated and ahead of their time; the projection of certain lines of the text still feels quite avant-garde and crops up in plays as recent as Attempts on her Life by Martin Crimp.
I also love the notion that Williams feels he has to explain the notion of a memory play to the audience in such a self-conscious manner. Postmodernism again? I’m not sure, but Williams certainly still has a lot to teach aspiring playwrights about the modern application of the tragic form, about good characterisation, strong structure and perhaps most importantly, about creating a palpable atmosphere which underlines the play’s central themes.