Warsaw. Tennessee Williams’ Iguana Night – A Summer Drama Recommended by ADiT

The Agency for Drama and Theater ADiT invites you to read the text Marta Orczykowska on Tennessee Williams’ least known drama, and given that it’s a trip to Mexico by American tourists, it’s worth recommending as a summer book. “Iguana’s Night” appeared in the ZNAKU anthology a few years ago, but at ADiTt you can order it in PDF and enjoy reading it on the pop-up screen.

Mexico. A long hot night. A suspended pastor who is forced to earn a living as a tour guide, deviates from the programmatic track with his group of American women. He has committed a crime with an underage traveler and, fearing trouble, wants to save time by making an unscheduled stop at the dilapidated hotel of his widow, friend Maxine. Shannon, strong and weak, struggling heroically with his penchant for young women, with neurosis and alcoholism, still hopes to return to the bosom of the church, but refuses to accept his vision of God. Endowed with irresistible masculine charm, hysterical and explosive, sometimes brutal, but in fact sensitive – he associates with Stanley Kowalski from “The Streetcar Named Desire”.

The hotel’s owner, Maxine, a desperately longing love widow in her fifties, melts her desire into coconut rum and sex with young Mexican boys, blinds her withered body and tries to permanently trap Shannon at all costs. Hanna, on the other hand, traveling with the 96-year-old grandfather of the poet Nonno, has only two remaining erotic experiences: someone accidentally touches her knee at the cinema and complies with the fetishist’s request to give him some of his wardrobe, and the in need of a “home” and she gratifies herself with closeness by traveling with Nonno. They make money selling her watercolors and his poems, but the budget is too modest to even afford a hotel stay. Hanna knows that her grandfather is at the end of his life, which he wants to end by writing his last poem. A nondescript wilderness hotel in the forest high above the lagoon becomes a claustrophobic space for the struggles of the heroes, each taking an existential twist. Fighting with themselves, with each other and with an inexorable fate – perhaps the last fight. It becomes a mass of emotions, resentments and unfulfilled ambitions. Williams masterfully writes the tension in the seemingly banal dialogues. Erotic – Maxine constantly exposes other parts of the body with hope to Shannon, the archetypal male Shannon, who for the first time found in Hanna an essence that could help him, and for the first time does not consume this account, serving himself and the readers sensual scenes (e.g. when immobilized after a fit of rage, he asks Hanna to take a cigarette from his pocket and put it in his mouth).

But not just erotic. From the start, the piece has a mounting tension that heralds an undefined catastrophe. Heavy rain, a sudden lack of electricity, disturbing music from a distance, struggling under the porch on a string of iguanas, fattened up for tastier consumption, and finally terrifying in its grotesque, childlike power, German group of Hitler’s followers. The whole forms a picture of the world on the edge – in a personal and global sense – in a tropical landscape full of colours, sounds, smells and tastes.

Mexicans catch iguanas for their tasty meat, remembering to tie them by the head. Tied to his tail, the lizard bites him off for freedom. “And he won’t bite his head off,” Shannon says bitterly.

“See? iguana? At the end of the rope? How do you want to get out? How madam! like me! What grandpa with your poem! […] Today we will play for God, as children make a playhouse out of old crates and boxes. What do you say? Shannon will take a machete and go over there and cut off the damn lizard to get away in the bushes because God won’t do that, so we’ll play God.”

Will the heroes also manage to break the thread?
The art, created more than sixty years ago, sounds very contemporary in every way. The new translation by Jacek Poniedzialek has contributed significantly to this.

Tennessee Williams, Iguana Night – a drama worth a new lifedescribed by Marta Orczykowska

Leave a Comment