Small Craft Warnings

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First edition
(New Directions)

Small Craft Warnings is a play by Tennessee Williams, an expansion of an earlier one-act play, Confessional, that was included in the Williams Dragon Country compilation of 1970. It centers on a motley group of people gathered in a seedy coastal bar in Southern California.

The characters include lusty, needy beautician Leona Dawson, an embittered middle-aged woman who repeatedly plays Jascha Heifetz's recording of Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancholique on the jukebox; her ne'er-do-well live-in lover Bill McCorkle; Doc, an alcoholic who lost his license to practice medicine but still does; Violet, who risks becoming the target of Leona's wrath when she flirts with Bill; Steve, the middle-aged short order cook who is resigned to his fate slinging hash in a waterfront dive; Monk, the congenial bartender; and two gay men – Quentin, a washed-up screenwriter, and Bobby, a young man bicycling from Iowa to Mexico that Quentin picked up on the road.

The play is scarcely plot based, and might be considered more of a kaleidoscopic pastiche of monologues delivered in a spotlight by each of the characters as the action around them becomes frozen and muted. Through them they reveal their loneliness and the emptiness of their existence.

The play premiered on April 2, 1972 at the off-Broadway Truck and Warehouse Theatre. Richard Altman directed a cast that included Helena Carroll as Leona and William Hickey as Steve. During the course of the run, Tennessee Williams himself took over the role of Doc. Candy Darling, an ethereal blonde transsexual performer from the Warhol stable of "superstars," played the role of Violet, a bewitching, trampy girl whom most of the male characters desire.

In his review in the New York Times, Clive Barnes said, "This is almost a dramatic essay rather than a play, a temperature reading of a time and a place . . . This is perhaps best regarded as a play in waiting, a pleasurable and rewarding exercise of style . . . This is not a major Tennessee Williams play, but it will certainly do until the next one comes along, and I suspect it may survive better than some of the much touted products of his salad years."

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