Tennessee Williams’s Final Full-Length Play Is Staged


And I was there for the opening last night!

It’s In Masks Outrageous and Austere, which Tennessee worked on from 1978 to 1983 (the year he died), providing multiple, unfinished drafts which have been cobbled together for this sleek, theatrical production.

Shirley Knight plays a faded, decadent belle named Babe who is losing her sight thanks to cataracts, glaucoma, and having misplaced her glasses. (How’s that for heavy symbolism, three times over?)

Her young husband–who is, oxymoronically enough a “distinguished minor poet”–has found a male lover, so Babe busies herself with a couture-wearing matron with a mentally afflicted son in a slicker, a petulant dwarf, a growling black man, and of course the Secret Service-like guards confining her to the netherworld she’s been abducted to. (In her Verve Cliquot haze, she thinks it might be Canada. It’s not.)

It’s all very Tennessee Williams, but even talkier, more florid, and more out there and paranoid than usual.

At the party, director David Schweizer told me he met Williams in 1970, and he’s now the age Williams was when they met, so this production seems like destiny for him.

About Williams, he said: “He worked every day, no matter how looped. He was like a tank–he worked no matter what.”

And the playwright’s own view of Masks?

“[There’s] a great deal of poetry in it,” he once said, also calling it “extremely funny,” and “bizarre as hell.”

Sounds like no matter how tipsy, he really knew himself.

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