It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the '40s and '50s.
Let's set the scene...
Rory is nervous about asking Dean to the dance at Chilton. The parameters of their relationship have not quite yet been defined... and she's confused.
(Cut to Lane and Rory walking in the snow.)
Rory: He's gonna say no.
Lane: Why would he say no.
Rory: Why would he say yes?
Lane: Rory, listen to me. There's absolutely no point in having a boyfriend if you can't get him to go to the dance with you.
Rory: He's not my boyfriend.
Lane: What is he then?
Rory: He's my...gentleman caller.
Lane: OK, Blanche.
[BW&R Note: This could also work as a reference to Golden Girls... the second best "GG" show in all the land. "Thank you for being a friend..."]
The wonderful thing about books is that the reader is responsible for imagining the world they are placed in by the author. However, with the stage directions provided in a script, the reader knows what they're meant to imagine. For some reason, Tennessee Williams doesn't remove the need for imagination with his stage directions. They simply enhance the surroundings in which the reader finds themselves. His descriptions heighten the experience and get you into the mind of the main characters... what it feels like to be poor on a hot New Orleans day, what sounds and smells surround you in Elysian Fields.
[Update: Well, my lovely friend Becca just completely de-validated the entire first paragraph of my review with this little note...
Did you know that when you read a published play, the stage directions that are written are generally not the author's creation? They tend to be from the original staging of the play. The more you know.
Know-it-all! ;o) ]
Music plays such an essential role in the story of Stanley, Stella and Blanche. The way polka and jazz piano emphasize the current happenings and foreshadow the future is innovative and cements the reader's presence within the story. It informs the reader of the social strata in which Stanley and Stella reside and in contrast, highlights the difference in Blanche's supposed highbrow lifestyle. It also provides the soundtrack as the reader is told the backstory of the characters and how they've gotten to this place and time.
In the end, Williams' tale is one of misery... and the mystery lies in who the misery truly affects. It's easy to make an initial judgement that Stella and Stanley are unhappy in their lives given their socio-economic status (or the fact that Stanley is a misogynistic jerk who hits his pregnant wife... mere details!). But as Williams takes the reader through Elysian Fields, it becomes apparent that appearances are deceiving. Although the Kowalskis are struggling, Blanche DuBois is the one who is living in a world that passed her by a long time ago.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
Jess is a lot like Stanley... without the physical abuse and young Marlon Brando muscles.