photo: World Telegram & Sun by O. Fernandez/Library of Congress
I don’t know what you like to do at 3 am on a Saturday, but I apparently like to go to the theater.
That’s what I learned over the weekend during the Labyrinth Theater Company’s ambitious, entirely free, around-the-clock celebration of what would have been Tennessee Williams’s 99th birthday. From Friday night to Sunday at midnight at the tiny Cherry Pit Theater in the West Village, the company read through all of Williams’s plays, plus letters and one-acts and other small pieces he’s written.
Our show, a read-through of The Notebook of Trigorin, started at midnight and lasted into the wee hours. Philip Seymour Hoffman milled about the lobby. We missed Daphne Rubin-Vega in Night of the Iguana by an hour. I got a free tote bag printed with a photo of Williams’s face.
And also, I learned something. A fan of Williams’s torch-y, swoon-y, Southern-fried family dramas, I didn’t know that he’d adapted Chekov, but in some ways, The Notebook of Trigorin was the ultimate Williams play. With its love triangles, creeping sexual subtext, languid afternoons on the lawn, and—naturally—one guy who’s gay and doesn’t know it, this play wasn’t all that different in its themes than, say, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Read by the talented members of the Labyrinth company, it didn’t matter that there was no blocking or costumes or lighting. This celebration was about the writer, and the words, and their power to evoke and transport. You couldn’t help but admire not just the work, but the devotion of the people who set up the event in the first place, and the crowds that came out to see it. (The Night of the Iguana reading was so full that they had to clear the entire theater before the next reading could start.)
Forty-eight straight hours of nothing but beautiful writing by one of America’s most accomplished playwrights? Now that’s something to fangirl over.