Vieux Carré (play)
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (November 2009)|
Vieux Carré is a play by Tennessee Williams. It is an autobiographical play set in New Orleans. Although he began writing it shortly after moving to New Orleans in 1938, it wasn't completed until nearly forty years later.
The highly autobiographical work is set in a dilapidated boarding house at 722 Toulouse Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the late 1930s. It focuses on a nameless, newly transplanted, innocent, aspiring St. Louis writer who is struggling with his literary career, poverty, loneliness, homosexuality, and a cataract. He gradually becomes involved with the other residents, including Mrs. Wire, his demented, manipulative landlady; Nightingale, an older, predatory, tubercular artist who refuses to accept his condition; Jane, a New Rochelle society girl dying of leukemia; her sexually ambiguous, drug-addicted lover Tye, who works as a bouncer in a strip club; Mary Maud and Miss Carrie, two eccentric elderly women who are literally starving to death; and a gay photographer with a passion for orgies.
The cast included Richard Alfieri as the writer, Tom Aldredge as Nightingale, and Sylvia Sidney as Mrs. Wire. Galt MacDermot composed incidental music and co-wrote the songs "Sugar in the Cane" and "Lonesome Man" with Williams. The scenic and lighting designs were by James Tilton, and Jane Greenwood designed the costumes.
In his review in the New York Times, Clive Barnes wondered, "Is Vieux Carre a good play?" and then replied, "Probably not. But it depends what you mean by good. It is a play of blatant melodrama and crepuscular atmosphere — poetically speaking, and he never tried anything less, Mr. Williams always writes of violence at twilight. Its qualities are those of texture rather than form. It is a series of vignettes, based on fact, falsified by art, transformed into short stories, and woven into a play . . . If we always expect the unexpected to happen—and as playgoers we do—nothing happens. And the play has no structures other than the interweaving of caricatured characters. Yet it has a haunting nature — you leave the theater with the impression of having been told a secret. Not necessarily a truth, but a secret . . . It is unquestionably, the murmurings of genius, not a major statement. Yet beneath those murmurings, through the meanderings, is an authentic voice of the 20th-century theater. It is slight but not negligible. Which, considering so many dramas, is a pleasant reversal."