Summer and Smoke (1945) by Tennessee Williams is a great play. This 2-part play was later rewritten by Williams as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale and put out into the world in 1964.
Set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi Alma Winemiller, a minister’s daughter, and John Buchanan Jr., a doctor are involved in a spiritual and sexual emotional situation with each other. That in and of itself was very modern first of all. Buchanan is Winemiller’s neighbour and she has always liked him. But she is looking for romance and he is looking for sex. He asks her to come to a hotel with him. Offended, she rejects his proposal. Undeterred, John has also an interest in Rosa Gonzales, daughter of a casino owner, and he and Rosa become engaged. Not happy about the news, Alma tells John’s father who has a fight with Rosa’s father and ends up dead after been shot. John begins to see things differently after this and becomes engaged to Nellie Ewell, a woman who is a former pupil of Alma’s and who he decides to try romance with. Alma tells him that she is up for both romance and sex but he has moved on. She decides to go have a purely sexual relationship with a salesman.
I like the way in this story Williams shows how those we meet can affect our lives and change our paths and minds. In negative, positive or neutral ways. That was very interesting. The characters are well rounded and fleshed out. Their conflicting feelings add a lot of depth to the story and show different sides and different perspectives very well. The dialogue is brilliantly done and flows with ease. The scenes are painted vividly so you can see the scenes before you. I liked the characters and the plot. It worked very well. I think it was also very interesting how Williams shows how both characters have many sides, feelings and opinions about non-platonic relationships which they explore at different times in their lives. It shows that your emotions can change and you don’t have to feel one way always because that’s how you were known to feel before, that you have that freedom to change your mind and I think that is a great message.
A must-read. Enjoyed it.
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