How many Tennessee Williams plays have you seen?

Featured Actor
Currently in a Tennessee Williams scene study class and was wondering how many people have seen a Williams play? (Either an original production, a Broadway Revival, or an important regional production) Please also include what you thought about it.

Comparisons between an original production and a revival would be fascinating to read about.

The only Tennessee Williams play I've seen on Broadway was the revival of Menagerie, last year. I've seen Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and Streetcar Named Desire, regionally.

As always, thank you for your input!
After Eight
Broadway Legend
I've seen quite a few, and can't remember every one.

I'll just mention a few:

The Glass Menagerie - His best play. The most recent Broadway production was the best one I've seen. Zachary Quinto was superb.

Summer and Smoke- My favorite Williams play. Happily Geraldine Page's matchless performance was preserved in the film version. Later revised as Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Betsy Palmer was very good in that.

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore- An underrated play with a lot of sharp humor. A bangup off-Broadway production some years back starred Elizabeth Ashley, Marian Seldes, and Amanda Plummer.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof- Elizabeth Ashley gave a standout performance alongside Keir Dullea.

The Seven Descents of Myrtle (Kingdom of Earth)- Estelle Parsons worked very hard, but the play didn't come off.

Clothes for a Summer Hotel- Even Geraldine Page was unable to make this one work.

A Streetcar Named Desire- The most recent Briadway revival was very good.

Slapstick Tragedy- Wild and compelling.

Vieux Carré- I've seen several productions of this. A memory play, compassionate and poetic. The best of his later plays.

Out Cry/ The Two Character Play. Mystifying, but the most recent production wirh Amanda Plummer is probably as good as this play can get.

The Red Devil Battery Sign- I saw the original Boston tryout and an off-Broadway production. Unfortunately, the play didn't work either time.

In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel- I've seen two productions of this. A lesser work, but of interest.

In Masks Outrageous and Austere- Performed off-Broadway a few years ago with Shirley Knight, who was excellent. Formless, outrageous, and fascinating.

Updated On: 7/21/14 at 08:11 AM
Broadway Legend
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (many times including the NT version with the late Ian Charleson)
Sweet Bird of Youth (with Kim Catrall)
Orpheus Descending
Camino Real (RSC production)
Broadway Legend
One of my favorite recent Tennessee Williams experiences was seeing Summer and Smoke at Paper Mill Playhouse in 2007, with Amanda Plummer as Alma and Kevin Anderson as John. Both were superb, though the production was lacking intimacy due to the size of the theatre. A year later, I saw a superb Off-Broadway production of Eccentricities of a Nightingale, the revised version of Summer and Smoke, presented by The Actors Company Theatre on one of the smaller stages at the Theatre Row complex. That was about the best production I imagine I'll ever see of the play, and really benefitted from being in a small house. The leading lady, Mary Bacon, was really fine, as was the rest of the cast. It was great to be able to see two first-rate productions and variations of the same play within the span of a year.

Other productions I've seen:

Streetcar: Glenn Close(London); Natasha Richardson/John C. Reilly (Broadway); Cate Blanchett (BAM); Jessica Hecht/Sam Rockwell (WTF); Marin Mazzie/Chris Innvar (Barrington Stage)

Glass Menagerie: Sally Field (DC); Jessica Lange (Broadway); Judith Ivey (Off-Broadway); Cherry Jones (Broadway)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Ashley Judd/Ned Beatty (Broadway); Mary Stuart Masterson/George Grizzard (DC); Anika Noni Rose et al (Broadway); Scarlett Johansson (Broadway)

Suddenly Last Summer: Diana Rigg (London); Blythe Danner/Carla Gugino (Off-Broadway)

Not About Nightingales: the Broadway production with Corin Redgrave

The Rose Tattoo: Zoe Wanamaker (London)

The Night of the Iguana: Cherry Jones/Marsha Mason/William Peterson (Broadway)

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore: Olympia Dukakis (Off-Broadway)

The Two Character Play: Brad Dourif and Amanda Plummer (Off-Broadway)

I'm happy to give details on any individual production if you want.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Updated On: 7/20/14 at 11:26 AM
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
Camino Real-- a production at Brandeis University in 1975 featuring the great Loretta Devine as Esmeralda. This play needs a strong director and dramaturg, but is an astonishing work about thwarted love in a Twilight Zone setting. What a perfect musical it would make!

Orpheus Descending-- '89 Broadway revival starring a miscast Vanessa Redgrave. Felt like lower-drawer Tennessee, full of Williams-esque cliche themes he would develop more richly in later plays.

Not About Nightingales-- Wow, just wow! The very same Vanessa Redgrave was responsible for the phenomenal 1999 revival at Circle in the Square of a script from back in 1938 when Williams was only 27 years old. Brilliant cast, brilliant Richard Hoover prison set, terrifying tale of injustice in a southern jail that you'll never forget.

A Streetcar Named Desire-- a fantastic Steppenwolf production in '97 starring Gary Sinise and Layla Robbins. One of the few perfect works of theatrical art, but not my favorite play of his.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof-- the only production I've seen is the recent Broadway revival with Scarlett Johansen-- who I feel was a very weak link in an otherwise well-cast but limp revival. It just never caught fire for me.

The Glass Menagerie-- I'm with After Eight on this one, my favorite Williams play by a mile. I loved the various movie and TV versions over the years (even the strange Katherine Hepburn version with the wonderful Tom of a young Sam Waterston). I finally saw it onstage in the deeply disappointing Mark Taper production starring Judith Ivey directed by Gordon Davidson back in 2010-- for starters the whole thing was staged in Tom's hotel room and never provided any visuals of the St Louis apartment where the story takes place. So it was a huge relief to finally see the great Cherry Jones production last year on Broadway. And I second the vote that Zachary Quinto absolutely made that show for me. Still not a fan of the Bob Crowley set (heresy, I know) but it didn't matter. That night showed the best of what a Tennessee Williams play can be.

Broadway Star
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF - Catastrophically terrible if in the wrong production, but has an opportunity to be brilliant. Best production in recent memory was at the ADC.

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE - See above. The 2009 revival at BAM was the best that I've seen.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE - His best play by far. Amazing and astounding work. Obviously, the most recent revival was incredible and changed my life.

ONE ARM - Lackluster, but not without merit. I have only seen the 2011 production, but I think in a better production it could be very good.

THE MILK TRAIN DOESN'T STOP HERE ANYMORE - I only saw the 2011 Roundabout revival, but it was a very solid production of a play that was a little too slight for my liking

IN MASKS OUTRAGEOUS AND AUSTERE - Super wacky play, definitely a failed experiment for Mr. Williams. I'm okay with a little existentialism, but the play has to make at least some sense.

THE MUTILATED - My favorite play by him. Very funny in a dark way; the 2013 production was really good.
Anything regarding shows stated by this account is an attempt to convey opinion and not fact.
Featured Actor
This is wonderful everyone, thank you so much!

So much to research!

I wish I could have seen Streetcar at BAM, as I heard Cate Blanchette was resplendent.

So many names came up that are surprising! Glenn Close, Sally Field, ect.

I agree, last year's Menagerie, changed my life as well.

Thanks again!

Updated On: 7/20/14 at 04:18 PM
Broadway Legend
-A Streetcar Named Desire (Emily Mann's recent production, and the Studio 54 production)
-This Property Is Condemned (Regional)
-The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (Roundabout)
-Night of the Iguana (West End, starring a magnificent Woody Harrelson)
-Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Ashley Judd, Anika Noni Rose AND Scarlett Johannson)
-Camino Real (Regional)
-Clothes For A Summer Hotel (Amateur)
-Summer and Smoke (Amateur)
-Suddenly Last Summer (Roundabout)
-And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens . . . (LaMama)
-The Two-Character Play (Dourif and Plummer)

It's time for a damn good revival of The Rose Tattoo.
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
Broadway Legend
Someone in a Tree--Orpheus Descending is essentially a later play, IMHO even if it is based on Battle of Angels his first produced play--its style and tone is completely different if you read them next to each other. I actually love it and I'm glad the Peter Hall production you mention was filmed.

I've seen regional productions of Streetcar, Menagerie (several times, ) Cats and Sweet Bird as well as a very good production of Small Craft Warnings (it and Vieux Carre are my favorite of his later era plays.) The only major production i saw was Diana Rigg in the London revival of Suddenly Last Summer (excellent.)

However, I've read all of the plays in the two volume Library of America set and tracked down most of hte movies and TV adaptations--I'm pretty obsessed.

One thing to keep in mind is that Williams' constantly revised his plays--the version of Cat mostly done now is based on the 1970s revision which combined elements from the infamous Elia Kazan final act and Williams' original as well as some other changes like making the language more extreme (annoyingly many people claim that the 1955 original production was the first Broadway play to use the f word--it wasn't, that's from the revision.)
The Josh
Leading Actor
I saw John Tiffany's Glass Menagerie, which was dazzling, and Rob Ashford's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which was awful.
Broadway Legend
Oh, and Lord. How did I forget? The Glass Menagerie (with Jessica Lange and the recent John Tiffany stunner).
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
Broadway Legend
Has yone ever seen a production of THE REMARKABLE ROOMING HOUSE OF MME. LEMONDE? It is one of the strangest, most vulgar things I've ever read.
Broadway Star
I've read that play, but have never seen it. I think that I would like it a lot more if Mr. Williams had not written it, but it isn't a bad play.
Anything regarding shows stated by this account is an attempt to convey opinion and not fact.
Broadway Star
Williams (and Albee) were both responsible for getting me interested in Plays/Dramatic Literature and I wish I had the chance to see my favorite of his plays on Stage - Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. I regret that I didn't get to see the last Three revivals.

With that being said, I did have the privilege to see:
The Glass Menagerie
Dir: John Tiffany - Broadway. Cast: Cherry Jones
Dir: Gordon Edelstein - Mark Taper Forum (LA). Cast: Judith Ivey

Suddenly Last Summer - London
Dir: Michael Grandage Cast: Diana Rigg
Chorus Member
Thanks after Eight for the great list. Scripps2, how did you like the RSC Camino Real? AC126748, I'd appreciate more details on Glenn Close's Blanche, Sally Field's Amanda, and Sam Rockwell's Stanley.

The productions I remember right now are:
The Glass Menagerie - I loved the Tiffany revival, esp the staging and Quinto
The Mutilated and Two Character Play - fascinating minor Williams
Vieux Carre - Wooster Group made a hash out of middle-drawer Wms
Streetcar - I sat close enough to love Jessica Lange's Blanche. Baldwin was hammy but OK
Not About Nightingales - Circle in the Square. A vivid staging, the play shows he had promise from the start
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Solid West End rev w Brendan Fraser, Frances O'Connor, and best of the bunch Ned Beatty

I'm so jealous of everyone who has seen these amazing productions! I love Williams and am very taken in by his work and life story.

I've only seen the Tiffany MENAGERIE and the Ashford CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (along with a community theatre production of STREETCAR). Of course MENAGERIE was exquisite. I appreciated parts of the CAT revival, but also saw its flaws.

I'm playing Brick in a production of CAT right now. There is nothing like working on Williams. It is the most fulfilling work I've ever had as an actor. I hope to have the fortune of playing many more Williams characters.
Broadway Legend
I'm not sure if Williams' even thought The Remarkable Boarding House would be performed--it was one of several short, almost "black out" plays he wrote very late in his life and called the style "guignol." The premier was 5 years back with Grande Jeste's 2009 production at the Tenn Williams Festival (which I'd love to go to.) Here's a video ad for it

I think it definitely is Williams' most unpleasant play I've read, though fascinating, and one that I would eagerly see performed (not sure how they'd stage the "moving around on meat hooks" thing.)
Broadway Legend
When I was in college, I did a research project on Williams, reading just about every play he wrote. He's interesting because his writing career was opposite of the norm. He had several big hits in the early part of his career and then spent the latter part of his career with experimental works that didn't get as much attention as his earlier works.

Everytime I walk past the Hotel Elysee in NYC I have to laugh because he called it the Hotel Easy Lay.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Broadway Legend

First off, I will say that Sam Rockwell is easily the best Stanley I've ever seen. He was sexy (and sexual) in a way that was so natural that it just radiated. He was magnetic. You completely understood his dangerous attraction. Unfortunately, he was paired with a miscast Jessica Hecht, who was trying way too hard to come off as all naked nerves.

Glenn Close was very poorly cast as Blanche--all steel, no fragility. She made it work at times, but overall I wouldn't call it a successful performance. Also, I'm not sure how old she was at the time (maybe 50), but she seemed much, much older, and not in a way that would suggest someone who's been aged my tragedy. She just seemed like a dowager.

Sally Field was a superb Amanda. I wonder if anyone ever tried moving that production to New York or London. It happened roughly around the time (within a year) of the Jessica Lange production on Broadway. Field was much better, which is surprising since (to me, at least) she's not an ideal Amanda on paper. She was definitely not a show-boating Amanda, and in fact, that production was easily the most balanced interpretation of the play I've ever seen. Field definitely had that gentility that Amanda claims to have possessed in her youth (and works to show she still has), but more than almost anyone else I've seen in the role, her Amanda was a fighter too. Also, Jason Butler Harner is the best Tom I've ever seen.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Featured Actor
all in London:

NOT ABOUT NGHTINGALES with Corin Redgrave at the National

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER twice: Rachel Weisz/Sheila Gish; Victoria Hamilton/Diana Rigg

STREETCAR three times: Jessica Lange/Toby Stephens/Imogen Stubbs; Glenn Close/Iain Glen/Essie Davis; Rachel Weisz/Elliot Cowan/Ruth Wilson
and have a ticket for the upcoming Young Vic one with Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF three times: Ian Charleson/Lindsay Duncan/Eric Porter; Brendan Fraser/Frances O'Connor/Ned Beatty; Adrian Lester/Sanaa Lathan/James Earl Jones

MENAGERIE twice: Zoe Wanamaker/Ben Chaplin/Claire Skinner; Jessica Lange/Ed Stoppard/Amanda Hale

SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH twice: Clare Higgins & Robert Knepper; Kim Cattrall & Seth Numrich

ORPHEUS DESCENDING twice: Vanessa Redgrave & Jean-Marc Barr; Helen Mirren & Stuart Townsend

NIGHT OF THE IGUANA twice: Alfred Molina/Eileen Atkins/Frances Barber; Woody Harrelson/Jenny Seagrove/Clare Higgins

CAMINO REAL by RSC at Young Vio with Leslie Phillips, Peter Egan & Susannah York

SUMMER AND SMOKE once was more than enough!) West End revival with Chris Carmack & Rosamund Pike

THE MILK TRAIN DOESN'T STOP HERE ANYMORE at the Lyric Hammersmith wuth Rupert Everett

KINGDOM OF EARTH at fringe venue The Print Room

PERIOD OF ADJUSMENT at the Almeida with Jared Harris, Lisa Dillon and Benedict Cumberbatch

THE ROSE TATTOO at the NT with Zoe Wanamaker

SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS at the Arcola with Greg Hicks, Sian Thomas & Meredith McNeill

Updated On: 7/21/14 at 10:41 AM
Broadway Legend
Thanks for that yoTube link for MME LEMONDE.

I saw that IGUANA with Alfred Molina and Eileen Atkins, it was wonderful. And has no one else seen the Cherry Jones, Marsha Mason IGUANA? They were both terrific.
Broadway Legend
I saw the Jones/Mason IGUANA (as I indicated in my post) and I didn't find either to be particularly well-cast. William Peterson was excellent.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
- NYC: Jason Patric/Ashley Judd (she was not good)
- Stratford Canada: Cynthia Dale
One Arm
- Chicago Steppenwolf: Dir. Moises Kaufman (was impressive)
Orpheus Descending
- Stratford Canada: Seana McKenna/Jonathan Goad (he was amazing!)
Glass Menagerie
- Stratford Canada
- APT Wisconsin

Broadway Legend
In no order:
*Glass Menagerie: best production-Cherry Jones; worst-and one of the all-time worst things I have ever seen-Jessica Lange's; sorry I missed Sally Field's at Kenn Cen as I have heard it was pretty extraordinary.
*Streetcar: best-Blanchett and Rosemary Harris (1972 at the Beaumont); worst-Natasha Richardson and then because the Stanley was so badly cast
*Milk Train - this play is a bit of a mess; with all the rewrites and versions, there is no definitive script. Film title is "Boom" with Burton/Taylor/Coward, and it is laughably dreadful and a must-see.
*Cat - best was Liz Ashley in 1974 but parts of other productions have stayed with me in a good way
*Orpheus Descending - film title The Fugitive Kind
*Vieux Carre - all i can remember is Sylvia Sidney, cancer, a male nude scene and that it all added up to very little.
*27 Wagons of Cotton - film is called Baby Doll.
*Rose Tattoo funny, lovely, entertaining and oddly, his only Tony Award Best Play winner.
*Sweet Bird - no one can touch Irene Worth in 1976 even though she was 15 years too old for the role.
*Iguana - his last truly good play
*Suddenly, Last Summer
*Summer and Smoke - there was a production at the Shaw Festival in about 2008 that was splendid.
*One Arm
*and the film of The Seven Descents of Myrtle which is called The Last of the Mobile Hot Shots and is totally terrible, so bad it is more than funny, and I suppose any Williams fan has to sit through it.

At The Film Forum in NY there will be an eleven day retrospective of Williams' work Sept 26 through Oct 6. 14 films will be shown, but not, alas, Mobile Hot Shots. The new schedule was in the mail last week.

Something to keep in mind: many, but certainly not all, of Williams' plays have a great central woman's role, but they are really 'about' the leading man. Cat and Sweet Bird are the two best examples.

"If my life weren't funny, it would just be true. And that would be unacceptable." --Carrie Fisher
Broadway Legend
"He's interesting because his writing career was opposite of the norm. He had several big hits in the early part of his career and then spent the latter part of his career with experimental works that didn't get as much attention as his earlier works. "

I'm not arguing this--because you're right, but there are many other big playwrights I think this is true of--many associated with Williams. William Inge, for example, who of course Williams' helped get into the business, and then turned on him when Elia Kazan directed, and had a huge hit with, Inge's Dark at the Top of the Stairs instead of directing Orpheus Descending despite having helped Williams revise the play for several years earlier. (It's too bad as Kazan probably would have been ideal for Orpheus. Harold Clurman directed it and apparently his VERY realistic staging--including cutting the complete prologue--was extremely wrong for the show, as was casting Cliff Robertson as Val, something Williams was about. It was a flop, but as I mentioned above, Peter Hall's 80s revival which was faithful to the stylized nature of the script helped many re-evaluate the piece, even if Someone in a Tree didn't care for it :P It and Sweet Bird of Youth--another play that has had some bad stagings and two bad movies--are actually my two personal favorites of his major plays.)

Anyway, Inge's first four Broadway shows were all massive hits (or, in the case of his first play Come Back, Little Sheba, a minor hit but a big critical fave,) and then he had a string of increasingly experimental failures that, much like with Williams', critics complained were getting increasingly vulgar and nihilistic. Of course his suicide cut his career even shorter. I'm a big Inge fan (though I wouldn't place him quite on the level of Williams,) but it's interesting that people are starting to re-evaluate his 60 work.

Edward Albee to some extent also started off with largely his biggest hits, and then by the late 70s was written off by the critics and audiences, until he had a come-back.

I do think Williams' later plays are worth reading for any fan, not just out of interest and to examine his work, but that many of them actually are very good. He sorta couldn't catch a break after Night of the Iguana. Critics had already been bemoaning that his plays were getting increasingly violent, extreme and bleak by the time of Suddenly Last Summer, Orpheus Descending and Sweet Bird of Youth in the late 50s. They seemed to fail to notice he was also getting more experimental, abstract and symbolic, instead they saw it as very literal. By the late 60s I think his work was starting to feel out of touch and awkward to the upcoming experimental theatre scene, but too experimental for mainstream Broadway. But by the 70s his shows didn't even really manage to run (mostly) off-Broadway or off-off. As I said elsewhere, I think Small Craft Warning and Vieux Carre are the best of his later plays (and some of the first that directly address homosexuality--Williams' failure to do so being another reason why he was often seen as a bit out of touch.)

One play that was a minor hit, had a decent movie version (one of the more faithful ones,) and is mostly forgotten is his one domestic comedy, Period of Adjustment. I think even now, Williams biographers don't know how to place it amongst his works and often just ignore it--but, while it could be seen as Williams' attempting Neil Simon style comedy, it still contains under the surface a lot of his common themes, and is more interesting than it seems. And, *I* forgot to list that I saw a staging of it in San Francisco about 5 years back that was VERY good (the director did edit it slightly from three acts to two acts, but at the time I didn't notice any major changes.)
Broadway Legend
This is anal of me, but of course One Arm was adapted from the short story by Kaufman--Williams never wrote a play from his short story (although I believe he considered adapting it into a screenplay which, given the times, seems like a very unrealistic plan.)

AJH, I'd love to hear more about which of those many UK productions of each show you preferred. I'm also surprised you dislike Suddenly Last Summer so much--as I said, I saw the Diana Rigg production in London and loved it (though admittedly, aside from Rigg, perhaps the most striking thing about the production was the set which kinda opened up like a huge Faberge egg.) The BBC filmed did a TV adaptation of the Richard Eyre directed London production with Maggie Smith and Natasha Richardson which is well worth seeking out (I believe it's part of a DVD set of Smith TV performances)--the Liz Taylor film which was adapted by Gore Vidal (who also adapted the interesting, and pretty obscure Last of the Mobile Hot Shots, the film version of Kingdom of Earth/Seven Descents of Myrtle) is more faithful in tone than many of the censored Williams' film adaptations but, like many of them, is frustrating due to having such iconic performances, but having to have been so censored and re-written for the screen, although I still think Brooks' adaptations of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth are the biggest examples of this.

It's interesting that it seems like in the past couple of decades, the recent Glass Menagerie being an exception (as well as the BAM Streetcar, though that was an import, I believe,) London has had more success with Williams' revivals than Broadway where many of the revivals of his big plays seem to have had major issues with them. I did like what I heard and read of the recent Chicago Sweet Bird of Youth with Diane Lane and Finn Whitrock and hoped there might have been a chance for it to have a limited run on Broadway.

Curtain PullDowner, your post got me interesting in reading more about Mme. Lemonde. You may have seen these, but there's an interesting article from a Williams magazine about the play here and a review of that production the youtube clip advertises here

Updated On: 7/21/14 at 03:09 PM



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