The Seven Descents of Myrtle

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First edition (publ. New Directions)

The Seven Descents of Myrtle is a play by Tennessee Williams. It originally began as a short story, which Williams then turned into a one act play, and then later revised it in to the seven act play that is accepted today. [1] Its title character is reminiscent of another Williams' heroine, Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Originally titled Kingdom of Earth, the serio-comic play focuses on Lot, a tubercular neurotic youth who is an impotent transvestite overly attached to the memory of his late mother. He has returned to his ancestral home, a decaying house on the edge of a river on the verge of overflowing, with his new bride Myrtle, a sometime prostitute and former showgirl, the sole survivor of the Five Memphis Hot Shots. She dwells in a fantasy world of romantic illusions, one of which is to nurse Lot back to health so they can consummate their marriage, but soon discovers Lot only wants to use her to steal the deed to the property from his multiracial half-brother Chicken, who has lived on and farmed the property for years. Once he meets Myrtle, he gets some romantic designs of his own.

The Broadway production was produced by David Merrick and directed by José Quintero. After two previews, it opened on March 27, 1968 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and closed after 29 performances. It starred Brian Bedford as Lot, Harry Guardino as Chicken, and Estelle Parsons as Myrtle. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.

In 1970, the play was adapted for a feature film under the title Last of the Mobile Hot Shots.

A 1975 production in London, at the Greenwood Theatre, starring Marianne Faithfull as Myrtle, was cancelled after just three performances when Ms Faithfull fell ill with peritonitis.

In 1976, the play had its West Coast premiere at The Pasadena Repertory Theatre located in The Hotel Carver in Pasadena, California. It starred Marie Peckinpah as Myrtle, Duane Waddell as Chicken, and Ed Harris as Lot. It featured a remarkable three story, rain-drenched set by Howard Whalen. The play was presented under Williams' original title "Kingdom of Earth" and ran for approximately 24 weekend performances over three months. It was directed by Gill Dennis, with executive producer Duane Waddell, and produced by Kevin Cloud Brechner.

In 1991, the play was produced in the UK at the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham starring Kit Hollerbach as Myrtle, Stephen Hattersley as Chicken and Marc Warren as Lot in a production directed by Bill Bankes-Jones. Stephen Hattersley won Best Actor 1991 in the TMA Awards for his performance in this production.

In 2011 it was revived at the Print Room in Notting Hill, under its alternative title Kingdom of Earth, directed by Lucy Bailey.

In 2012, Tom Hiddleston did a reading of the short story version for the series Stories Before Bedtime at the Criterion-Theatre in the United Kingdom. This short story is a more erotic version written in the first person from the perspective of Chicken.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kolin, Philip C. Tennessee Williams: A Guide to Research and Performance. p. 167. 

External links[edit]