Thursday, May 01, 2008

After 26 Years, Tennessee Williams' Last Full-length Play is Published!

Tennessee’s Williams’ last full-length play, A House Not Meant to Stand published by New Directions.

By Thomas Keith

“I am offering you my Spook Sonata and probably it would astonish Strindberg as much as it does you and me.” —Tennessee Williams, from draft notes for A House Not Meant to Stand, A Gothic Comedy

It only took 26 years, but some things that arrive from the department of “better-late-than-never” are well worth the wait. A House Not Meant to Stand by Tennessee Williams is one of those things.

In 1980, a one-act by Tennessee Williams called Some Problems for the Moose Lodge was presented with two other Williams one-acts on an evening called Tennessee Laughs at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Williams decided to expand Moose Lodge into a full-length play, and the Goodman’s artistic director at the time, Gregory Mosher, offered him space and time to experiment. The expanded version, then titled A House Not Meant to Stand, opened in the spring of 1981 in the their studio space.

And a final version, the one now published, was produced on the Goodman’s Main Stage in May 1982, just nine months before Williams died.

This play is subtitled “A Gothic Comedy” and that it is to say it is a dark comedy, at times a very dark. As it begins, Cornelius and Bella McCorkle of Pascagoula, Mississippi are returning at midnight from a funeral: their oldest son is dead, their daughter is in an insane asylum and their other son is upstairs having loud sex with his pregnant, holy-roller girlfriend. The wife has hidden money in the house, but has forgotten where she put it -- the husband wants to tear the house apart to find the money. Every one in this play is either trying to have another character committed to the booby hatch or steal their money.

For the publication of House, director and producer Gregory Mosher has written a foreword that is a beautiful and moving first-hand account of working with Williams and about the evolution of the play. I edited the final text and wrote an introduction for the book that speaks to Williams’ styles in his later work, the important connections between The Glass Menagerie and A House Not Meant to Stand, the nature of Williams’ comedy, and where the play fits into Williams’ canon. Mosher is planning a staged reading for New York, perhaps as soon as Fall 2008.

“Hilarious, horrible madness, A House Not Meant to Stand is ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ on the Gulf Coast.” —The Chicago Tribune

“The most entertaining and cohesive of Williams’ later works—themes of aging and death share the stage with a parade of comic characters and a hunt for a legendary stash of hidden money.” —David Cuthbert, The Times-Picayune

“A meticulous honeycomb of a story, with a gossamer heart and a granite spine. This is a playwright who has shed his tears, but you know there’s a cackle around the next corner.”—The Chicago Sun-Times

“The best thing Williams has written since Small Craft Warnings. —Time magazine

"Williams could always hear America’s heart before the rest of us: A House Not Meant to Stand is a ferocious scalding comedy. Tennessee Williams pushes the boundaries right up to the very end."—John Guare

A House Not Meant to Stand: A Gothic Comedy by Tennessee Williams
Edited by Thomas Keith with a Foreword by Gregory Mosher
New Directions, 2008
Trade Paper: $14.95

Also Recently Published by New Directions:
Traveling Companion and Other Plays

The Traveling Companion and Other Plays, by Tennessee Williams
Edited, with an introduction, by Annette J. Saddik
Twelve previously uncollected plays that all embrace, in one way or another, what Time magazine called "the four major concerns that have spurred Williams' dramatic imagination: loneliness, love, the violated heart and the valiancy of survival."
New Directions, 2008
Trade Paper: $17.95

Purchase BOTH titles and recieve a FREE* copy of either:

Theater: A Crash Course

Theater: A Crash Course
by Rob Graham

Here’s a ticket to instant sophistication for anyone who delves into this loving celebration of theater art, past and present, scripted in a lighthearted but highly instructive voice. Watson-Guptill, 1999. Hardcover, pages 144. List Price: $14.95. Our Price: $4.95

Theatre Quotation Book

The Theatre Quotation Book: A Treasury of Insights and Insults
Edited by Russell Vandenbroucke

A collection of close to 1000 anecdotes, aphorisms, adages and assaults written and spoken by actors, directors, composers, producers, critics, etc. Hardcover, pages 243. List Price: $14.95. Our Price: $4.95

If ordering via the Internet, please include the title of your choice in the "comments" field.

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