Candles to the Sun
This play in ten scenes by Tennessee Williams is his first full length play. Lost for decades after a 1937 amateur production it surfaced in the nineties and this is the Chicago premiere. The story is based on coal miners in the Red Hills of Alabama and it has Williams' first of many dysfunctional families in the Pilchers. Williams commented that his writing touches on "the great tenderness between individuals and the terrible circumstances that surround them," which is shown in this play. There is the desire of mothers for their sons to escape from the slavery of the mines (reminiscent of Lawrence's Sons and Lovers) and the struggle between social classes.
The production by The Eclipse Theatre Company, directed by Steven Fedoruk, was excellent. The actors worked on the edge between realism and melodrama and managed to rein in the excesses present in this youthful work. The whole cast was superb with standout performances by Rebecca Prescott and Nina O'Keefe as Star and Fern Pilcher, respectively. CeCe Klinger also excelled in the role of the matriarch Hester whose tired countenance symbolizes much of what will occur as the story unfolds. There are suggestions of future excellence in this early example of Williams' dramatic talent. It was an exciting evening of theater with one of America's greatest playwrights.
Candles to the Sun by Tennessee Williams. Eclipse Theatre Company, April 27, 2008.