Suddenly Last Summerby Tennessee Williams
Telling a story is dangerous, hearing a story is devastating in this thriller starring Festival favorites Brenda Currin as Violet Venable and Beth Bartley as Catharine Holly.
directed by Augustin J Correro
Tennessee Williams TributeColumbus, Mississippi
Photo of Beth Bartley by Ride Hamilton
Martha Gladue & Peggy Valenti
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"... required viewing for those who love Williams in all of his artistic manifestations"
About the Play
What happened to Cousin Sebastian last summer? As Sebastian’s cousin Catharine recalls how she watched him die, his mother, Violet, listens warily in a jungle-like garden where even the plants are carnivorous.
Is Catharine’s memory the truth? Is what Catharine says slander and ought to be silenced? A young neurosurgeon (who needs Violet’s money for his research) is asked to decide.
The path of an artist who courts disaster by following desire intrigued Tennessee Williams. Often in a play by Williams, to be disastrously swallowed up by what one desires is fate. Those who guard reputations, like Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, or Violet Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer, try to discipline desire and erase its history. When restraints fall away, catastrophe follows. If there’s a moral to learn it’s that what we pursue pursues us.
Williams also imagines healing after catastrophe, or escapes into madness, or both combined, as when Blanche walks off on the arm of a doctor. In Suddenly, Last Summer, a different doctor appears: one who knows how to perform a lobotomy. The irreversible procedure involves severing connections in the frontal lobe of the brain. The aim is to pacify patients who cannot be otherwise controlled.
Rose Williams, the playwright’s sister, suffered a lobotomy in 1944 that left her mentally disabled until she passed away in 1996. Williams’ mother had the procedure done to silence Rose’s outspoken sexual fantasies. In 1957, while drafting the play, Williams heard his psychiatrist suggest that to “cure” being gay, Williams should stop writing.
Silencing speech about desire, then, is the story here, in which cannibalism and brain surgery are talked about to the clashing of cymbals. Say that aloud.
The camp classic 1959 film starred Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn. Gore Vidal’s screenplay skirted censorship, but homosexuality is implied and understood. Suddenly, Last Summer premiered Off- Broadway in 1958 on a double bill entitled Garden District with Williams’ Something Unspoken, in which talk of love between two women is repeatedly interrupted.
About the Production
This first production to come to Provincetown from the Columbus, Mississippi Tennessee Williams Tribute will be performed where a memorable staged reading with Dana Ivey was presented in our 2010 Festival.