This play takes a clever approach by allowing us to see the formation of a play through the eyes of a playwright. The playwright’s name in Desire! is Tom. Anyone who does their theater homework knows that Tom is the given name of Tennessee Williams. So we’re watching Mr. Williams create A Streetcar Named Desire. The only problem is this playwright is able to see way into the future because the characters he projects via for us via fever dream are stuck in a modern day party scene in Yankee country. As the play progresses, Desire! becomes a dramaturgical nightmare. Gone are the Southern influences and accents that make Williams’ original characters so recognizable and necessary to the New Orleans set source material. Gone are many of the plot points that make Stella and Mitch important characters, forcing them to only appear when it suits fit for the main characters. Desire! is really two plays mashed into one; an abridged cut-and-paste Streetcar and an insight to the struggles of Williams’ life. While the two don’t mesh well together, individually, they both are clever and interesting.
|photo courtesy of Hunter Canning|
As far as the second play that makes up Desire! James Presson’s take on Tom, or Tennessee Williams, was emo-maniacal as he floated in and out of the two worlds. Again, Grossano was able to show her expertise in staging placing Presson into the play world and allowing us insight on the creation of the play. We saw Williams through the words his characters were saying. Discovery to say the least. The only odd decision was casting a woman to play the role of Allen, Tom’s lover. By losing the man and man relationship on stage spoiled a key aspect of Williams’ life. Sure, we can pretend and use our imagination, but the bold decision was not supported textually.
Desire! was a very ambitious undertaking by a quickly rising theater company. What the piece lacks in Southern flair, it makes up for in innovation and courage.