-- Al Hirschfeld
An American classic with guts, a serious play with the typical doses of laughter. It's a linear play with an unconventional time structure: no time passes during the Intermissions between the acts. But most significantly, this published version gives you the last act [Act III] that Williams first wrote and the considerably revised Act III he then did to please his Director. In the original, BRICK is the focus of the playwright's interest, but in the later version it becomes MAGGIE's play: watch for who he gave the final Curtain Line to in each version.
Another great play with guts, but with only a shred of laughter. And a very unconventional use of time: here the play runs continuously in real time -- the time the characters live through is equal to the running time of the play -- with no Intermissions. It's also an excellent demonstration of a very slowly evolving Suspense Plot that sort of creeps up on you until you finally get it long after most playwrights would have spelled it out for you.
The second most complex play among the First 5. It's an excellent introduction to the use of film technique in the structure of plays through its use of short Formal Scenes. It uses two layers of time -- the past and the present -- in its more complicated Time Structure and is a good example of using the central character as a Narrator who's telling us the story. It's based on a brief news account the playwright read of an unbelievable event: his goal in writing the play was to explain the unbelievable.
The most complex of the First 5. It uses a Narrator who there, among other things, to explain the Theme to us. And it uses three layers of time -- the past-past, the past, and the present in its Time Structure: there are flash-backs within flash-backs. It's also the most literate of the First 5 and thus demands a lot of its audience. In particular it helps to have read Baraka's [then LeRoi Jones'] most famous play, DUTCHMAN [Sgt. Water's is a reverse image of Lula], and The Wretched of the Earth by the sociologist Frantz Fanon. And knowing a bit about the history of the NAACP in the 1940's [when the play's story takes place] helps: particularly that the NAACP was then led by a man named Walter White, a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired African American who preached the now discredited view that racial assimilation was the only approach that could assure the acceptance of Blacks in American society.
If you can't find a good local bookstore with a large selection of plays, you can order recommended scripts, screenplays, videos, and books through the Web without having to do title searches. Look for linked book covers or the amazon.com logo [as above left] throughout The Playwriting Seminars. And the world's leading Internet bookstore can get them to you in a few days.