Time To Revive A Great Play,
I went to work this morning, knowing that one man had had his personal history that most likely involved domestic violence, come back at him, hard. When I got home, I learned that a second man, also a White House staffer, had resigned in the wake of , wait for it, allegations of domestic violence. The second guy, had once held a position in state government where his job was to oversee policy concerning, yeah, domestic violence.
I survived domestic violence. Didn’t get a restraining order. Didn’t go to a shelter. Was homeless, depended upon the kindness of friends and strangers. Currently putting my life back together, it will take time. Often everything feels like it hurts.
I listened to Jennie Willoughby’s statement “and I stayed” and I kept nodding. No one plans to fall in love with a monster. The Bluebeard story has fallen out of favor; women don’t live in castles any more. McMansions and suburban houses and elegant condos do not look anything like the places where in the universe of fiction domestic violence happens- trailer parks, no-tell motels turned into weekly rental housing, public housing projects, homeless camps.
One of the great American plays of the 20th century, considers domestic violence and the vulnerabilities of women, especially those without money or resources in, lacerating style. That play is the oft quoted 1948 Pulitzer Prize for drama winner “A Street Car Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams. The play also considers the power that men have over women. Stanley Kowalski probably couldn’t believe his luck when Stella DuBois gave him the time of day. Stella for her part, was probably well aware of her sister Blanche’s troubles. If getting smacked around every now and then was the price she had to pay for financial and a ragged version of emotional security, so be it.
A revival of this drama is desperately needed. Watching the movie won’t count. 1950’s film adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ plays were produced in a era when the steaming sexual pulse of his stage dramas had to be excised in the name of community standards and profitability. Stanley doesn’t just beat his wife, he slanders the sister-in-law he hates and then he rapes her.
Like any exceptional work of art, “Streetcar” makes you feel and think. These days, there is a lot to think about and lots of feelings, especially the tough one that are not optional.