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A House Not Meant to Stand

A House Not Meant to Stand

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A House Not Meant to Stand is the last play written by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

. It was produced during the 1981–82 season at the Goodman Theatre
Goodman Theatre
The Goodman Theatre is a professional theater company located in Chicago's Loop. A major part of Chicago theatre, it is the city's oldest currently active nonprofit theater organization...

 in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 by Gregory Mosher
Gregory Mosher
Gregory Mosher is a long time director and producer of stage productions – at the Lincoln Center and Goodman Theatres, on and off-Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre, and in the West End. He is also a film and television director, producer, and writer...

 and published for the first time in 2008 by New Directions. with a foreword by Gregory Mosher
Gregory Mosher
Gregory Mosher is a long time director and producer of stage productions – at the Lincoln Center and Goodman Theatres, on and off-Broadway, at the Royal National Theatre, and in the West End. He is also a film and television director, producer, and writer...

 and an Introduction by Thomas Keith.

Plot


Subtitled A Gothic Comedy, the play is set during the Christmas holiday in the deteriorating Pascagoula, Mississippi
Pascagoula, Mississippi
Pascagoula is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi, United States. It is the principal city of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area, as a part of the Gulfport–Biloxi–Pascagoula, Mississippi Combined Statistical Area. The population was 26,200 at the 2000 census...

 house of Cornelius and Bella McCorkle, who have just buried their eldest son, a gay man Cornelius banished from the home years earlier. During a raging storm, heavy drinker Cornelius, who once had political aspirations, tries to get Bella, who suffers from mild dementia, to disclose where she concealed the considerable amount of money she inherited from her grandfather, who accumulated his wealth by making and selling moonshine
Moonshine
Moonshine is an illegally produced distilled beverage...

. When she refuses to cooperate, her husband threatens to have her institutionalized, just as he did their daughter Joanie. Coming to her rescue is their negligent youngest son Charlie, who has returned home with his zealously religious pregnant fiancée Stacey in tow.

History


The play is derived from a one-act titled Some Problems for the Moose Lodge (published in 2011 in The Magic Tower & Other One-Act Plays) that was staged—together with A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot and The Frosted Glass Coffin—under the umbrella title Tennessee Laughs by the Goodman Theatre in 1980. Director Gary Tucker and Goodman artistic director Gregory Mosher urged Williams to expand it into a full-length play. The playwright returned to his home in Key West
Key West
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Key West is home to the southernmost point in the Continental United States; the island is about from Cuba....

 and began working on what was now called A House Not Meant to Stand, a title suggested by a production assistant on Tennessee Laughs. Williams called it a "Southern Gothic spook sonata," a deliberate reference to an August Strindberg
August Strindberg
Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter. A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg's career spanned four decades, during which time he wrote over 60 plays and more than 30 works of fiction, autobiography,...

 play known as The Ghost Sonata
The Ghost Sonata
The Ghost Sonata is a play in three acts by Swedish playwright August Strindberg. Written in 1907, it was first produced at Strindberg's Intimate Theatre in Stockholm on January 21, 1908. Since then, it has been staged by such notable directors as Max Reinhardt, Olof Molander, Roger Blin, and...

in its English translation. The crumbling house was a metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

 for contemporary society, while the characters were drawn from the Williams family, notably his father Cornelius, his aunt Belle, his paternal grandfather, and his brother Dakin. The play opened in late April 1982 at the Goodman, where it did respectable business through the end of May. Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

, calling it "a rich collection of scarred characters," said it was the best play Williams had written in a decade.