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A "Streetcar Named Desire"


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Tennessee Williams is one of the finest dramatists of the 20th century; his plays are produced around the worldExpert commentary and notes for students, including questions for further study, a chronology of the writer's life and work and a bibliographyA Streetcar Named Desire is a set text on the AQA Drama, CCEA English Literature and EDEXCEL Literature lists for 2007-2009Annual sales for the MSE edition in 2006: 4103 copies; in 2007: 4928 copies

About the Author

Tennessee Williams was born in 1911 and started writing aged forteen as a means of "escape from a world of reality in which I felt acutely uncomfortable". He spent the Depression years working in a shoe factory, before eventually getting his plays professionally produced in the 1940s, starting with The Glass Menagerie which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. In 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire opened in New York and ran for 885 performances. Williams died in 1983.


Williams's classic play begins with Blanche DuBois's arrival in New Orleans to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley Kowalski. The determinedly genteel Blanche is shocked by their lower-class lifestyle--and by Stanley's frequently aggressive behavior. As Blanche's secrets catch up with her, a seedy reality trumps her love for romance. Rosemary Harris embodies Blanche with all the flare, attitude and Southern drawl commonly associated with the cultural icon. The role of Stanley is so physical that his presence is diminished by the lack of a visual performance, but James Farentino's Stanley is excellent. The overall production quality is excellent with musical segues and sound effects that enhance without distracting the listeners. This recording captures the cast of the 1973 Broadway revival (which won Harris a Drama Desk award and Farentino a Theatre World award). (Feb.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

'Tennesee Williams' 1947 masterpiece of broken dreams and tragic collapse' * Michael Coveney, Independent, 29.7.09 *
'still ground-breaking dramatic, almost filmic, deliquescent structure and poetry' * Michael Coveney, Independent, 29.7.09 *
'Few playwrights match Tennessee Williams when it comes to capturing the poetry of despair and A Streetcar Named Desire was one of his most heart-rending creations.' * Siobhan Murphy, Metro (London), 30.7.09 *
'Williams's characters are voluptuaries with injured souls, and his dialogue contains moments of anguished lyricism.' * Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard, 29.7.09 *
'a great and seductive play' * Sarah Hemming, Financial Times, 31.7.09 *
The battle between Blanche and Stanley over living space is a microcosm of the greater battle that the two wage over Stella and for control of the future - a future that doesn't have room for both of them. * Lyn Gardner, Guardian, 21.9.10 *
If Blanche and Stanley battle over the future, Blanche and Stella are trying to protect the past - childhood innocence itself. * Lyn Gardner, Guardian, 21.9.10 *

Available for the first time on CD, this is a full-cast recording of Williams's famous play as performed at New York's Lincoln Center in 1973. The sound effects and music can overwhelm the production, which suffers somewhat from the lack of visuals (there is no sense of time passing, so listeners unfamiliar with the play might mistake all the action to take place over a brief period). Rosemary Harris's reading of Southern belle Blanche DuBois is excellent; her performance lends an airy, unreal quality to Blanche's follies. James Farentino plays mocking, brutal Stanley Kowalski aptly, and Patricia Connolly, too, plays Stella with suitable passivity. Better seen than heard, this is still an important recording to own. [Audio clip available through www.harperaudio.com.-Ed.]-B. Allison Gray, Santa Barbara P.L., Goleta Branch, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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