Generally regarded as Williams' last major work, The Night of the Iguana is set in the summer of 1940 and takes place at the Costa Verde Hotel in Puerto Barrio, on the west coast of Mexico. Arriving with a busload of very unhappy female American tourists is the dissipated, self-destructive Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, whose personal demons and scandalous behavior led to his banishment from the pulpit. On the verge of a nervous breakdown - not his first - he is reduced to playing tour guide for a fifth-rate travel agency. Shannon has taken his angry group to an unscheduled stop at the Costa Verde to seek guidance and comfort from the proprietor, only to discover that his friend, Fred, recently died and that the hotel is now being run by Fred's widow, the lusty Maxine Faulk. But Shannon makes a connection with another new arrival, Hannah Jelkes, a kind, lonely, penniless artist, who is traveling with her grandfather, 97-year-old Nonno, a minor poet hoping to complete one more poem before he dies.
Unlike Williams' other great plays, The Night of the Iguana ends on an ambiguous, hopeful note. Shortly before the original production opened on Broadway, Williams told The New York Times, "I didn't feel like writing a 'black play.'" In that same interview, he said that the theme of the play is "how to live with dignity after despair." The Night of the Iguana was inspired by a trip he took to Acapulco in the summer of 1940, when he stayed at a sparsely populated hotel called Costa Verde.
Directed by William Hayes, PBD producing artistic director, with assistant direction by Paula D'Alessandris, The Night of the Iguana stars Tim Altmeyer as Rev. Shannon, Kim Cozort Kay as Maxine Faulk, Katie Cunningham as Hannah Jelkes, and Dennis Creaghan as Nonno (Jonathan Coffin). Also featured are Irene Adjan as Miss Judith Fellowes, the belligerent leader of the women on tour; Alexandra Grunberg as Charlotte Goodall, Shannon's underage, recent conquest; as well as David Nail, Michael Collins, Brian Varela, Thomas Rivera, David Hyland, Becca McCoy, Rebecca Tucker, and Jordon Armstrong. Scenic design is by Michael Amico, costume design is by Brian O'Keefe, lighting design is by Paul Black, and sound design is by Matt Corey.
The Night of the Iguana
opened on Broadway on December 28, 1961 and ran for 316 performances. The original cast featured Patrick O'Neal as Shannon, Margaret Leighton as Hannah, and Bette Davis as Maxine. She left the show after four months and was replaced by Shelley Winters. The 1964 film starred Richard Burton as Shannon, Deborah Kerr as Hannah, and Ava Gardner as Maxine.
Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi, was one of America's greatest playwrights. Beginning with The Glass Menagerie (1945), he created a body of work that is passionate, lyrical, often violent, and always yearning, that sprang from his own loneliness and demons. His other best and best-known plays include A Streetcar Named Desire (Pulitzer Prize), Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo (Tony Award), Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Pulitzer Prize), Orpheus Descending, and Sweet Bird of Youth. Many of his plays were adapted for film, most memorably A Streetcar Named Desire (for which he wrote the screenplay), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo (for which he co-wrote the screenplay), Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Night of the Iguana. He also wrote many one-acts plays, and his prodigious output numbers over 100 works. In addition, Williams wrote the screenplay for Baby Doll, based on his one-act play, 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, and co-authored the screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer, based on his one-act play of the same name.