Cameron Kelsall: David, we’re going to talk today about Tennessee Williams and Kim Stanley. These are favorite topics, but also fraught ones. In both cases, it grows ever more difficult to separate their artistic magnetism from what we know about their personal lives—especially as we move into considering the latter parts of their careers. We recently watched Dragon Country, a 1970 evening of two television plays written by Williams, featuring Stanley and William Redfield in one (I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow), and the pairing of Lois Smith and Alan Mixon in the other (Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen). Both playlets feature the hallmarks I associate with late-career Williams—a greater emphasis on character study than plot development; hazy allusions to his earlier, reputation-defining works; an undeniable frankness toward the sad fates of faded Southern Belles. But in I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow, we’re also contending with Stanley and the last gasp of the Method, don’t you think?
David Fox: In some sense, I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow—which can be streamed on YouTube—gives us a purer example of Stanley than Three Sisters or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Any sense of artifice is minimal; we feel from the start almost like voyeurs, given a bird’s eye view of her inner struggles. Here as always, Stanley’s translucency is almost shocking—really, it’s her particular genius as an actor. She’s always alive and unfiltered, reliably unpredictable, eternally fascinating. But it also forces me to grapple with a problem I’ve had for years with Method acting and its guru purveyors: why are we so fascinated by women in pain? And why is that pain—tears and loss—the ultimate triumph of the method actress? (I think it’s very much not the same thing for men, where rage seems instead the quality that’s most “real”…
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Categories: Criticism, PARTERRE BOX, Theater
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