MAY 2, 1955
HYDE PARK—On Friday night I went to see the new Tennessee Williams play, "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." This is real theatre, I must acknowledge. It deals with a problem almost as prevalent as alcoholism, and with other problems which are equally well known, though we look at them frequently as a result of neurotic disturbances, either mental or emotional. Any psychiatrist or psychoanalyst who attends the play must feel that he is spending a few extra hours in his consulting office. Nevertheless it is a play dealing with real problems, beautifully acted and well written.
One wonders what it is that is making this play such a success. It cannot be that people like to contemplate human suffering. It must be something that goes deeper and is a problem for many people today. I think perhaps it is because here, as in his earlier play, "The Glass Menagerie," Tennessee Williams is showing us the difficulty of communication between people who spend their lives saying and doing things they do not mean and do not feel. That must hit home to many individuals, and the play leads one to think beyond just people in their daily contacts. This inability to communicate is what makes it difficult for groups of people to understand each other, for nations—above and beyond the difficulties of language and the meaning of words—to get at the realities that lie in the minds and hearts of the peoples of other nations. This is the real tragedy beautifully shown in "Glass Menagerie" and again expressed in this play. I think it is this underlying theme which gives Tennessee Williams' work a real appeal.
To come back to the individuals in the play: how difficult it was for them to be honest with each other, probably because it is so difficult to be honest with oneself. Shame or pride keep many people from expressing even to themselves things that might better be brought out into the open for the ultimate peace of the individual.
It isn't a pleasant play. Many will be shocked by it. Some will feel they prefer not to think about such things. But those who feel the need of greater communication with their fellow human beings will go away thoughtfully and recognize that something fundamental is dealt with here.
I drove up to Hyde Park on Saturday with young Henry Morgenthau III. It was a very beautiful day, and the trees are getting that first soft appearance which makes a whole hillside look colorful and yet young and fresh.
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