Tennessee Williams’ Last Play Finally To Be Staged. (And It’s Gay As Blazes)

The New York Post’s resident drama queen, Michael Riedel, reports that the final, never-produced play by legendary gay playwright Tennessee Williams might be coming to off-Broadway this spring.

Before he choked to death on a bottle cap at the Hotel Elysée in 1983, Tennessee Williams hoped to stage a comeback with a new play called In Masks Outrageous and Austere.

He’d written several hundred pages, but right after his death, his friend, writer Gavin Lambert, squirreled them away. Lambert didn’t want critics, who ran down most of Williams’ later plays, attacking his last work.

But in 2005, shortly before his own death, Lambert released the manuscript. Gore Vidal took a stab at editing it, and Peter Bogdanovich was planning to direct a Broadway production starring his ex-girlfriend Cybill Shepherd.

That project fizzled but Riedel says director David Schweizer has gotten the rights to the play and  “was able to craft a version that is true, he believes, to Williams’ intentions.”

The play is a thriller about the world’s richest woman, who is kidnapped—along with her gay husband and his younger lover—by a mysterious corporation.  (Hmm, sounds like Williams was getting less oblique with his queer references in his later years.)

Masks is a sublimely haunting piece of theater and feels almost uncanny in its expressiveness as Tennessee’s farewell piece,” said Schweizer in a statement. “There are utterly surprising, surreal theatrical gestures here, but also a deeply rooted, passionate sense of yearning that only he can evoke in the theater. I knew Tennessee when I was a young man and he was exactly the age that I am now, and I feel privileged to bring this astonishing work in all of its explosive theatricality, to the stage.

Though Masks, which Williams worked on from 1979 to his death in 1983, is set to go into previews at New York’s Culture Project on April 5, no leads have been cast yet. Riedel says Schweizer has approached Anjelica Huston, Kathleen Turner, Helen Mirren and Elizabeth Ashley (who’s something of a Williams specialist).

A powerful, wealthy woman with a gay husband? Has Michele Bachmann ever acted professionally?

Photo: Orland Fernandez/World Telegram

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