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The Demolition Downtown

January 10, 2017

The Demolition Downtown

Written by Tennessee Williams

Published by New Directions Publishing in The Theatre of Tennessee Williams, Volume 6 (1981 printing); Piece written in 1970

One Act Play, 28 Pages

 

"I'm counting on his being ravenous for a woman, which I think is likely. Before they took the city, they lived in mountain caves, and the general's still a young man." - Mrs. Kane

 

Linguistically, The Demolition Downtown is a fascinating study. Williams writes in a staccato rhythm, with the characters, characters who have a long history and know each other well, often not completing their sentences, such as:

 

Mr. Lane: "I think you probably left it in the."

Mrs. Lane: "Yes, probably, yes."

Mr. Lane: "It's all right, baby, I'll."

 

From the context when reading, it is obvious that the couple is talking about the car keys and that Mr. Lane is going to go outside and check. Aside from showing us how well the characters know each other, I think that the phrasing of the dialogue is reflective of the shattered world the characters inhabit. Their city has been captured, and the new regime is, through dynamite explosions heard throughout the play, knocking down all of the structures which once stood. That this is reflected in the structure of the broken language is nothing short of brilliant.

 

Although this piece was written almost fifty years ago, it remains timely and poignant, perhaps pointing toward the cyclic nature of politics. While I'm quite familiar with Williams, I had not been exposed to his short pieces, and I think they have a lot to offer and to study. There's a reason why his work endures!

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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