…And Then Tennessee Williams Ruined Me!

24 Nov

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For a west-coaster born-and-bred chick, I have a total and complete sick weak-in-the-knee obsession for the Southern Gothic. 

…There is something about the heat and hysteria and inborn-overtly-entitled meanness of a Tennessee Williams play that absolutely slays me.  And it always has.

I have a distinct recollection of the first viewing of “Streetcar” in fact, that left me sexually confused and breathless for about a week.  I was a pre-teen, at my Aunt’s house, supposedly “babysitting” at the time.  In reality: the kids were asleep, I had raided the pantry for the absolute last ounce of junk food, and was drooling over TCM (my biggest weakness of all time.)

…That is, until Brando showed up in his sweat-stained t-shirt, and his gross-mean-horrid ways.

Brando was too much man-meat to handle in one sitting, come to find out. And  even then, I knew there was something intrinsically “not right” about wanting to be Blanch DuBoise when I grew up.  But god help me, that bastard playwright confused my lust of art so much, that I’m still not entirely sure WHY.

…All I knew from THAT MOMENT of “…young man…young, young man…”, is: I wanted to have a “young man” at some point, and say those words…and be Vivian Leigh, and bed a dude like Brando, who was a giant machismo dick. (and probably had one.)

That is a lot for a twelve-year-old to take in.

It’s a lot for a 33 year-old.

…What I figured out (in retrospect) is that, despite my latent Cougar-like tendencies, (apparently), I ALSO wanted a man to be ” A MAN,” and above all: I wanted to be a great “Actor.”

…An “Actress” (in title) seemed trite somehow.  And fairy tale-ish.  Or “cute.”  It’s sexist, but true. Everyone always seemed to take men more seriously so  that was the night I decided not ONLY did I want to say great lines by great writers, but to be “sir’d” while I did it. And from that night to this: it has never changed.

Film had frequently changed my life up to that point, for various reasons.  It had already made me want to act. It had already made me mad for character work and accents and periods not of this time.  What THAT night did, was introduce sex on screen in a TOTALLY different way to me.  And also the seriousness of the content being performed. 

…Before “Streetcar,” my first love had been musicals…(where sex is wrapped up in kissing and plots were formulaic)…and my personal idol: Audrey Hepburn (where sex was classically chaste and plots mostly uncomplicated.) “Streetcar” rocked my world with the possibility of messy, horrid, violent, excruciating “other” options to that mix. That people underwent this in “life,” I totally got. That people were aloud to SHOW it in PERFORMANCE, I had (until then) absolutely no idea.

And because “sex” and “acting out” is such a big fucking deal to young people, “Streetcar” became a BIG FUCKING DEAL to ME. And so did it’s writer. And it has STAYED that way. And always will.

…Which makes evenings of indulgence (like tonight), courting several of his wonderfully flawed characters (worked-up-to-their-sexual-catastrophe-best), an even better treat.

Listen: I’m single. I’m playing a Beaver in a children’s show. I was thirsty. I drank.

…And GOD was it tasty.

“Night of the Iguana,” is no “Streetcar.” But when you wade through the character fleet of “women-of-a-certain-age” set dressing, and get past Richard Burton’s sweaty, overt scene-chewing…you get to witness several sweet-spot moments of William brilliance…which reminds me WHY I love his writing and character work so much. Which takes me back to a twelve-year-old, plastered to the TV like my very life depended on it…frequently forgetting to breathe.

…Deborah Kerr’s smallest of acting choices making ten-times the weight of power than all of Burton’s brayings (for instance), are a thing of subtle, steadied beauty. Ava Gardner’s total disaster area don’t-care-how-shitty-I-look drunken lushness, is excess-of-delight. That scene of painter-to-defrocked-pastor, on the relateability about the true definition of a sexual moment, is brain candy. The poem of an old man: is hope. The bitter-sweet ending: a nod to life’s imperfections.

…Other than perhaps Albee, I know of few modern playwrights who can plot the vilification, deconstruction, enlightenment, and saving-grace of a character to hold a candle to Tennessee Williams. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it ends well…in fact it frequently doesn’t. But to have the opportunity to play…(even once in a career)…someone as flawed and real and naked and ugly and open as he makes his characters to be, is such a terrifying and liberating thought. I can’t help but be jealous of the bastards who get to, while I sit here and wait…biding my time…from TWELVE YEARS OLD, to whenever “middle age” begins to register on my face…and let me finally, finally get the chance…the chance I have waited for, already, for the bulk of my lifetime…to get good and real and dirty, in something as awesomely complicated and disturbing, as the Major Leagues can possibly dish out.

…To play with some text from Tennessee someday?

Delicious thought.

…And totally, totally worth the wait…

~D

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