The Gnadiges Frauleinby Tennessee Williams
directed by Michael Page
Main Street Players
The Gnadiges Fraulein, translated from German as “Gracious Young Lady,” marked a startling departure in the work of . Surreal, with abstract characters and nonsense dialogue, its action is in the spirit of an animated cartoon. Williams himself called it a Slapstick Tragedy, “kin to vaudeville, burlesque, and slapstick, with a dash of pop art thrown in.” It represents a trend in Tennessee Williams’ late years toward the absurdist theatre of Beckett and Ionesco.
Although the playwright saw it as an allegory on the tragicomic subject of human existence, most critics agreed with the reviewer who wrote “the play defies description. I haven’t the foggiest idea of what Mr. Williams has to tell us.” Despite the efforts of two supreme actresses, Zoe Caldwell and Margaret Leighton, it ran for only seven performances. The play also seems autobiographical, for the Fraulein’s declining career is a fantasy version of the playwright’s own. The text can be usefully translated as Williams’ disillusioned view of the Theatre, with Molly as producer/director, Polly as the media, Indian Joe as Hollywood, exploiting sex-as-commerce, and the Fraulein as the Artist under attack by critics--the cocaloonies. At the end, the battered performer, blind in one eye as was Tennessee at the time, sets out to catch one more fish, demonstrating that the show must go on.”
– Allean Hale