There's a giant photo of playwright Tennessee Williams etched permanently into the exterior of the Guthrie Theater for good reason. The theater's fondness for this combustible poet of longing and heartache dates almost to its opening.
In 1964, Alan Schneider staged Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Critic Dan Sullivan slammed that guffaw-eliciting production as a "broad farce."
"A Streetcar Named Desire," directed by Ken Ruta in 1975, fared better. The drama "seethe[d] and sweat[ed]," said critic Mike Steele, who praised a cast that included Karen Landry as Stella.
In 1976, Stephen Kanee's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" also won raves. Steele said the director's vision made up "for the loud emotions that so often have turned this play into a small lunatic asylum."
Emily Mann's quiet "Menagerie" in 1979 was a "triumph, sometimes in unexpected ways," said Steele.
"Menagerie" had a "flat" revival in 1988 under director Vivian Matalon.
I found David Esbjornson's "Summer and Smoke," in 1999, the first Williams play during the reign of Joe Dowling, to be "wondrous," with Laila Robins a lyrical Alma.
Critic Graydon Royce declared John Miller-Stephany's 2003 production of "The Night of the Iguana" "imperfect," with an "amazing" rain-forest set that outshone the acting. It was the final Williams' play at the old Guthrie on Vineland Place.
In 2007, director Joe Dowling revived "Menagerie" as the first Williams play in the new Guthrie. Dowling's decision to cast two different actors to portray Tom was interesting, but not entirely successful, I wrote at the time.
In 2010, John Miller-Stephany ran "A Streetcar Named Desire" off the rails (the headline of my review), a laughter-infused production with "a strenuous impulse to keep things from going too deep."
Now director Lisa Peterson's "Cat" becomes the 10th Williams production at the Guthrie.
Research assistance provided by librarian John Wareham.