Play reading is challenging for some people. It happens so that I enjoy reading them. Of course it has something to do with me being a theater director, actor, playwright and what not. That’s right, Plastikoff is a very important theater artist, so you always should listen to what, he, ze Plasikoff himself, has to say to you about one or another play. Yes, of course, he has something to say about cats and Port drinking too, but today’s entry is not about that, unless you find a connection between Tennessee Williams and his cats.
If you are in theater arts, you most likely heard questions like, “so what play would you recommend?” Or “what’s in theaters right now?” Most of the people who ask these questions want to take a short cut. I don’t know if I should blame them for that and throw some paint into their faces? Maybe I should just break some vases instead? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be Plastikoff if I would not find some fun in those questions and my play reading.
These dialogs, monologues and short descriptions might get you when you read theater plays. You might say: “how the duck should I imagine how big actress’ boobs are when I read a description like this:
“ISABEL appears before the house, small and white-faced with fatigue, eyes dark-circled, manner dazed and uncertain. She wears a cheap navy-blue cloth coat, caries a shiny new patent-leather purse, has on red wool mittens.”
A fun fact about those boobs: apparently Jane Fonda had to wear fake titties while performing in a film version of Tennessee Williams’ play “Period of Adjustment.” I don’t know if that’s true, but her titties looked pretty real to me.
There are many things directors, actors, composers, stage and costume designers have to imagine while reading those, sometimes never ending, dialogs. I am here to enhance their and your imagination, my darlings. Considering all this challenge you might face reading a play, I want to present to you “The Temperamental “T” Battles” between two plays.
I would like to share with you the insights of how I read plays. To make it more interesting for myself and maybe for you, I am going to compare one play with another and see which one is stronger, which themes and characters are developed better and so on and so forth.
To put a play on the stage requires a lot of time and energy, so you want to find that perfect play which includes everything what you are looking for. My “very important notes” might make you read those plays and, who knows, this might become a reason why you have chosen one or another play for your theater. Yes, you can thank me in your play bills later, just don’t forget to send me some Port after you do that (I think that’s a good place to insert a smiley face, no?).
Here are the rules of the battle. I am going to take two in a way similar plays and playwrights and am going to compare them as if they are break dancing on the street or something. Somebody or something has to win. In no way I want to put down one or another play or playwright. They all are one way or another great, but, just it happens so, I might find one play more appealing to me than another. It could be that by points one play might be loosing the battle, but that would not necessary mean that I am less fond of the loosing play and am dismissing the “weaker” one and not considering it for a possible production. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you will find the same attraction to the plays I find exciting. First of all you are not Plastikoff to find dead things exciting and second of all… well there is no second of all, you are just not Plastikoff and that’s that (smiley face).
Here are the categories I am going to rate the plays in the fight:
- Which play has a more appealing/intriguing name?
- Are these plays race friendly?
- Could they be produced in other countries considering where they were originally written and produced?
- What are the weakest points and parts of the fighting plays?
- What are the strongest points and parts of the fighting plays?
- Was there anything that was censored in the plays?
- Is there anything that should be censored now?
- What type of plays are they?
a) A Director’s play
b) An Actor’s play (character driven play)
c) Are these plays giving more freedom for visual interpretations for stage designers, choreographers and composers?
And, of course, are there enough of “flying” sentences in the fighting plays to satisfy some similar situations you might find yourself in? You never know when you might need to make some lemonade and borrow some money for the lemons. I am here to do some research for you and help you with that, because we all know that most artist “have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Two points for you if you know where this sentence came from.
I am pretty sure more things will come up later, but for now I am inviting two great American playwrights Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee for the battle of temperamentals. The fight is going to be between “Period of Adjustment” by T. Williams and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by E. Albee. Let the fight begin.
First, let me tell you in short what these plays are all about.
“Period of Adjustment” is a play about two couples dealing with their marriages. Two men in the play are long time friends. They know each other from the times when they were soldiers during Korean War. One of them, the older one, Ralph, is on the verge of divorcing his wife Dorothea. He married her for her money. Another one, George, just got married. There is something he is hiding from his wife Isabel and the world. There are plenty of hints to suggest that George has some homosexual tendencies. Well, darlings, it wouldn’t be a Tennessee Williams play if you would not have at least something which suggests “the secret.” George has a “performance anxiety.” This might be a code that he doesn’t really like ladies, but is forced to get married to make the town stop talking. His secret is subtly revealed by his placement of his hands on Ralph’s shoulders, his talk about a possibility of buying a ranch together and overly excitement of meeting Ralph again after some years. Considering that he got married to a stunning beauty, the suspicion about his “tendencies” intensifies.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is also about two couples who deal with their relationships. There is an older married couple and a young couple. The young couple gets invited by the older couple to their home for more drinking and debauchery. Constant (drunk) fights between the older couple reveal to us a lot about their relationship.
I don’t want to go deeper into plot details of those two plays, because that would add another four hundred words. You can find the plots on the Internet easily, so I am going to skip on that part and concentrate more on the “fight” and juicy details instead, revealing to you which play gets more points from me and which one is more likely to be produced right now.
First of all, the names of the plays:
Definitely, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is a better title than “Period of Adjustment” which is surprising to me because Tennessee Williams is way better than Edward Albee with names for his plays. Who can compete with names like “A Streetcar Named Desire” or “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?” Nobody. “Period of Adjustment” is not a successful name for this particular play. It could be that because of the name this play is less known than any of Tennessee Williams plays, which is a shame, because I find this play to be a very strong play. I give Albee 5 stars for the name while Williams gets only 2 stars.
Next, are these plays race friendly?
This is going to hit Tennessee Williams into the balls hard, because his play is not race friendly. I understand that the play takes place in the south and that at that time African Americans played servants only, but… I don’t see this play being performed with actors whose skin color is other than white. Also I hardly see this play being successful in other countries like, let’s say, China, Philippines or Nigeria. The play is about white people’s problems in the south of the U.S. of A. and that is quite a shame, because the way characters are written by Mr. Williams is absolutely gorgeous.
On another hand, even though “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” original cast was all white, I can see this play being adapted in other countries and played by actors of different races.
I am giving Tennessee Williams 2 stars and Edward Albee 4 stars for race friendliness.
Now what are the weak points/parts of each of these plays?
“Period of Adjustment” weak points are:
a) The name – Mr. Williams could have found a better name.
b) The overuse of “Period of Adjustment” in dialog between characters.
c) The use of “colored,” “negro” in the text and African Americans as servants.
d) Too “happy” of an ending considering the undertones explored in the play.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” weak points are:
“POA” strong points are:
a) Strong characters and small cast.
b) Strong and mysterious undertones in the play. There is a very subtle way Williams tells about a possible homosexual attraction between two friends Ralph and George. The subtle arm placement on each other’s shoulders and overly excitement when they see each other for the first time, give me an impression that Ralph and George enjoy each other’s company more than the company of their wives. Mr. Williams uses very strong text to express Ralph’s feelings towards homosexuals. Ralph tells several times how he is not happy about his son being turned into a sissy by his wife. There is a “Brokeback Mountain” moment in the play when Ralph and George are talking about leaving their wives and buying a ranch together somewhere in Texas to grow cattle. Isabel who is married to George feels that there is something wrong with him, because of how he behaved on the first night after the wedding. Latter on Ralph discloses that George didn’t really have sex while in Korea during the Korean War which again suggests that George might be leaning towards homosexual love. A little detail about the car George drives gives us an understanding that his marriage is his coffin.
c) Everything happens during one day, no time lapse.
“WAOVW” strong points are:
a) Strong characters and small cast.
b) Relationship undertones reveal to us in a very peculiar way that the older couple is without children even though they talk a lot about their son. The way the madness between characters progresses during the play is genius.
c) Everything happens during one night, no time lapse either.
d) Also the names of the three acts definitely add to the enjoyment of the play. They are: 1st act “Fun and Games,” 2nd act “Walpurgisnacht” and 3rd act “The Exorcism.”
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” definitely wins this battle, but “Period of Adjustment” with a few edits could become one of the strongest Tennessee Williams plays. Because of the themes in “POA” I tend to choose this play for my future production.
Regarding the censorship, both plays had some censorship happen to them when they were first produced. As almost always as it was with Tennessee Williams’ plays which had homosexual undertones, suggested leanings towards love between two men were removed from productions, be it in film or theater.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” had a few cuts too, but it suffered less than “POA.” The replacements were minor. The word “screw” was completely removed from the film. “Hump the hostess” was retained, but had some headaches happen to a few “good” people involved with censorship of profanity and sexual innuendos.
Both plays are character driven, actor plays, which means that they could be directed by actors and playwrights alike. There is not much for a director to do just to make sure that actors are following the script and character development.
On the ending note, even though “Period of Adjustment” lost this round by points, I should say that this play is as great as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and should be produced more often, maybe just with a few edits.
And now the juicy “flying” sentences for you.
“Period of Adjustment”
Ralph Baitz: The human heart could never pass the drunk test. Take a human heart out of a human body, put legs on it and tell it to walk a straight line, and it couldn’t. The heart could never pass a drunk test.
Ralph Baitz: Who remembers the last war? They’re too busy on the next one.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”
[George takes a corner far too fast, tossing everyone in the car from side to side. Pause]
Martha: Aren’t you going to apologize?
George: Not my fault, the road should’ve been straight.
Martha: No, aren’t you going to apologize for making Honey throw up?
George: I didn’t make her throw up.
Martha: What, you think it was sexy back there? You think he made his own wife sick?
George: Well, you make me sick.
Martha: That’s different.
Martha: I swear, if you existed, I’d divorce you.
George: Martha, in my mind you’re buried in cement right up to the neck. No, up to the nose, it’s much quieter.
George: Martha is 108… years old. She weighs somewhat more than that.
George: Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?
Nick: Who did the painting?
George: Some Greek with a mustache Martha attacked one night.
Nick: It’s got a…
George: Quiet intensity?
Nick: Well, no, a…
George: Well then, a certain noisy relaxed quality maybe?
Nick: No, what I meant was…
George: How about a quietly noisy relaxed intensity?
George: You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth; you can humiliate me; you can tear me to pieces all night, that’s perfectly okay, that’s all right.
Martha: You can stand it!
George: I cannot stand it!
Martha: You can stand it, you married me for it!
Nick: May I use the… uh… bar?
George: Oh, yes… yes… by all means. Drink away… you’ll need it as the years go on.