by Tennessee Williams
"The play is memory . . . the thirties, when the huge middle
class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind. Their eyes had
failed them, or they had failed their eyes, and so they were having their fingers
pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy." - Tom Wingfield, "The Glass Menagerie"
The words of Tom Wingfield could easily have been spoken
by the Writer, narrator and lead character of Tennessee Williams' later, more
experimental and less renowned "Vieux Carre" (1978).
Michael Black, Melissa Roberts, and Ethan Savaglio, Photo by David Perez
The writer, a voyeur, silently captures the twisted moments of Jane and Tye's
Imagine the Great Depression in New Orleans, a place of
world- renowned celebration in a time when going to bed at night was a celebration
of having merely made it through another day. Now picture a single room in a
dilapidated boarding house of the French Quarter, where rickety crackling footsteps
sag into the scratched and stained wood floor. Two deluded bag ladies wail and
coo the downfall of their societal positions, while a "true" Southern gent shouts
through wheezing coughs at the travesty of his being accused.
Michael Black and
Brandan Whitehead, Photo by David Perez
Nightingale listens as the Writer pauses for a moment in relating his experience
with the paratrooper.
Finally the mindless dribbling of small talk is drowned
out by the deranged orders of a frail old lady on the brink of sanity having
just poured boiling water into a hole in the floor searing the neighbors below.
Susan Segalla and
Michael Black, Photo by David Perez
Seeing the Writer as her son, Mrs. Wire pleads with him not to leave her boarding
Now picture a woman cruising through this scene, humming
effortlessly to the tune of "In the Garden".
Susan and Diana Wells
Segalla, Photo by David Perez
Senile and tattered Mrs. Wire rests in the arms of Nursie, her house maid and
Like many of his plays, the explosive contrast of humor
and beauty with pain and anger characterize the poetic song that is "Vieux
Melissa Roberts and
Ethan Savaglio, Photo by David Perez
Jane enjoys Tye's seemingly life giving touch for one of the last times.
Expectations of plot will remain unfulfilled by the romantic
imagery of Williams' "Vieux Carre". The play translates visually more like
a collection of tattered portraits painted from memory than a fluid motion picture.
Photo by David Perez
Nightingale peeks around the Writers shoulder.
Like Picasso's violent and emotive Guernica of the same
period, Williams "Vieux Carre" experiments with form and structure to paint
a portrait of intense emotional conflict in a dark and vacuous time. The characters
of Vieux Carre struggle desperately in the dimness of economic and emotional
disadvantage, lit only by the faintness of their hope.