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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abstract; symbolic; unlike any of Williams' other plays
Anyone expecting Camino Real to be anything like the other plays Tennessee Williams wrote during the same period, such as Summer and Smoke or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, will be puzzled. This is unlike anything else Williams wrote; it's nonlinear, overtly symbolic, lacking a conventional plot, and filled with images that don't make literal sense even as they speak directly...
Published on June 5, 2000 by Frank Cunat

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars For the serious fan of theater arts
No one can deny Tennessee Williams is an icon of the theater. His work provides the lexicon and a good bit of the foundation of modern theater, including the incorporation of multi-media on the stage. Volumes have been written. Camino Real has to be one of Williams darker works. It almost has an almost Sci-Fi aspect by incorporating various historical figures in what...
Published 8 months ago by Nero


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abstract; symbolic; unlike any of Williams' other plays, June 5, 2000
This review is from: Camino Real (Paperback)
Anyone expecting Camino Real to be anything like the other plays Tennessee Williams wrote during the same period, such as Summer and Smoke or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, will be puzzled. This is unlike anything else Williams wrote; it's nonlinear, overtly symbolic, lacking a conventional plot, and filled with images that don't make literal sense even as they speak directly to the subconscious. I think it could be Williams' most brilliant work, but others will prefer his more accessible plays and I don't dispute that. "Camino Real" is unusual and will not be for everyone.
In the play Williams deals with end-of-life issues in a very stark way; he also explores how a person's own fears can keep him or her from moving beyond the comfort of the familiar into unknown territory. I have to confess: I read the play after seeing it and being bowled over by the production (at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington), and the question may be whether those who haven't seen it will find it equally powerful just to read it. This is a case where I think they may; the plays' symbols and images come alive in the imagination. Even if you don't like it, you'll find it thoughtful and challenging.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Camino Real, December 27, 2014
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This review is from: Camino Real (New Directions Paperbook) (Paperback)
Tennessee Williams 1953 play, "Camino Real" differed markedly from his early successful Broadway works, including "The Glass Menagerie", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "Summer and Smoke", and "The Rose Tattoo". Williams wrote these works in a romantically realistic way with plots and development of character. "Camino Real" broke from this pattern in its expressivist, non-linear style. The play has a surreal feel with characters who drift in and out of its strange symbolic setting. Williams wrote and rewrote the play based upon an early effort, "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real". When "Camino Real" opened on Broadway under Elia Kazan's direction, it received mixed, predominantly negative reviews together with a great deal of controversy. The play closed after 60 performances. It was the first of Williams' Broadway failures. In its obscure style, the play foreshadows other works of late Williams, which largely failed, following "The Night of the Iguana
in 1961.

"Camino Real" is set in a small town presumably located in Mexico but a product of imagination. As described in the play, the town has an expensive section dominated by a fancy hotel, the Siete Mares, which borders on a skid row. The skid row includes a dreadful flophouse, a pawn shop,and a fortune-telling stall run by a Gypsy. Beyond the town stretches a mountain and a desert. In a Prologue to the play Don Quixote's sidekick Sancho Panza says of Camino Real that "the spring of humanity has gone dry in this place."

The play includes many characters, some of whom are historical, some are drawn from literary works, and some are contemporary. Characters wandering through Camino Real include Don Quixote, Sancho, Lord Byron, Casanova, Marguerite, Esmeralda, and more. The town also has its own mysterious permanent residents, including Gutman, the owner of the Siete Mares who also narrates the play, the owners of the pawn shop and flop houses, blind singers, aging prostitutes and the Streetsweepers, who serve as police and henchmen and discourage the expression of free thought or romance in the town. The major character in the play is Kilroy, 27, an American and former championship boxer on the skids who is cast into Camino Real with only memories of his past successes. Kilroy has been told he doesn't have long to live. He suffers from a bad heart which has expanded in his chest to the "size of the head of a baby."

The characters in "Camino Real" tell their stories and interact in strange impressionistic ways which owe as much to the setting and to symbols as to the script. The thread of Kilroy's story runs through the work. He is robbed and then humiliated when forced to work as a "patsy" in the Sieta Mares. When Esmeralda, a prostitute and the alleged daughter of the Gypsy, regains her virginity by the light of the full moon, as is her wont, she and Kilroy have a paid relationship which strangely blossoms into feeling on both sides. In a strange sequence, Kilroy loses his money and his golden gloves to the pawn shop and also loses his expanded golden heart. But the play suggests that Kilroy recovers something of his soul and spirit at the end.

"Camino Real" is an unabashedly romantic play. Its many characters are aged, dissilusioned and burned out and strive with varying degrees of success to regain their zest for life, creativity, and passion. As is often the case in Williams' plays, the characters tend to be the heart of the playwright writ large. The plays succeed to the extent that Williams is able to universalize his feelings. "Camino Real" concerns itself with artists, outcasts, and losers. The tone of the work reminded me of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" which would be written two years later. Indeed, "Camino Real" has been described as the first "bop" play. Here is one of the key monologues of the play spoken by the prostitute Esmeralda, Kilroy's lover.

" God bless all con men and hustlers and pitchmen who hawk their hearts on the street, all two-time losers who're likely to lose once more, the courtesan who made the mistake of love, the greatest of lovers crowned with the longest horns, the poet who wandered far from his heart's green country and possibly will and possibly won't be able to find his way back, look down with a smile tonight on the last cavaliers, the ones with the rusty armor and soiled white plumes, and visit with understanding and something that's almost tender those fading legends that come and go in this plaza like songs not clearly remembered, oh, sometime and somewhere, let there be something to mean the word honor again!"

Subsequent to its initial Broadway failure, there have been attempts over the years to revive "Camino Real". The work continues to provoke widely varying responses. In addition to its obscurity, the play is difficult to perform due to its length, its large cast, and its elaborate, costly setting. I saw the play when it was performed at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. some years ago and had difficulty with it. It is not hard to understand that the play would be hard to grasp by an unsuspecting audience watching it on the stage. I also had trouble with the play when I read and reread it. It is not an easy work to grasp and requires patience. If not one of Williams' more successful works, it is poetical and rewarding. John Lahr's biography, "Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh" discusses "Camino Real" in detail and encouraged me to revisit the play. In addition to this New Directions edition, "Camino Real" is available in the first of the two Library of America volumes devoted to the plays of Tennessee Williams.

Robin Friedman
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3.0 out of 5 stars For the serious fan of theater arts, May 10, 2014
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This review is from: Camino Real (New Directions Paperbook) (Paperback)
No one can deny Tennessee Williams is an icon of the theater. His work provides the lexicon and a good bit of the foundation of modern theater, including the incorporation of multi-media on the stage. Volumes have been written. Camino Real has to be one of Williams darker works. It almost has an almost Sci-Fi aspect by incorporating various historical figures in what can be called a parallel universe for his setting. I have been told this play is rarely performed. I can understand. So Camino Real may or may not resonate with you. That does not mean it is not a great work of theater art, but it does not have the appeal of his better-known work. Obviously, this would be essential reading for the serious student of the theater. But be prepared for some heavy slogging. There is a tip of the hat to George Orwell's 1984 is implicit in this work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Failure, January 30, 2014
This review is from: Camino Real (New Directions Paperbook) (Paperback)
Toward the end of his life, Swedish dramatist August Strindberg wrote two plays that would prove highly influential: A DREAM PLAY and THE GHOST SONATA, both of which attempted to recreate the internal logical of dreams. Strindberg and his plays, especially these two, had a significant impact on Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), a writer who might be best described as a "poetic realist;" his stories and characters are often quite sordid, but he treats them with a tenderness and a pity and a quality of speech that renders them poetic. One of Williams most extreme efforts in this direction was TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL, a 1946 one-act that was first staged by The Actor's Studio in 1949. Williams continued to work with the material, and in 1953 he presented the full-length CAMINO REAL on Broadway.

There is no plot per se, but instead a series of interconnected scenes in which various characters cross paths, ultimately creating a vision that mixes gallantry and futility. The characters--many of them drawn from classic works of fiction--find themselves stranded in a nameless town in a nameless country on a street called Camino Real, where starvation and death are merely moments away and escape seems impossible. The primary characters are Kilroy, an American boxer who becomes involved with a Gypsy and her daughter Esmerelda, and Casanova and Marguerite, famous lovers who are past their youth and under ever-increasing pressure. Hotel proprietor Guttman, a character borrowed from Sidney Greenstreet's performances in THE MALTESE FALCON and CASABLANCA, oversees their struggles--and the activities of the street cleaners, personifications of death that clear the dead and dying away. Perhaps the peak of the action occurs when an aircraft lands, taking some away, leaving others behind to cope with their fate as best they may.

Characters sing, dance, pawn their possessions, attempt to seduce each other, die, escape, remain to fade, weaving in and out through the surrealistic set that centers on a dry fountain. The ultimate result is often memorable, often poignant, but it was not strong enough to succeed on Broadway, and it closed after sixty performances. The size of the cast has made revivals difficult, but a few have occurred, usually to the same reaction: Williams scholars are fascinated and the public is puzzled and at times annoyed by what they perceive as the plays pretension. This particular edition includes a preface, which is not particularly helpful, and closing essay, which is somewhat interesting, and both the full length and the one act versions of the play. It's certainly worth reading, but although it has moments of fascination, CAMINO REAL is ultimately an interesting failure.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing..., March 14, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Camino Real (Paperback)
A truly bizarre plot line with equally bizarre settings and character developements. I read this play without completely understanding it (ok, in truth I didn't get it at all), but I think that it deserves further examination.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Camino Real, October 30, 2011
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This review is from: Camino Real. (Paperback)
The book was in okay quality. After I opened and read the book, the covers started to remove themselves from the book. This might have just been the way the book was created so I am not angry.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I'm biased..., June 18, 2000
By 
Jax25 (Virginia Beach, VA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Camino Real (Paperback)
Yes, perhaps I'm biased, because I was in this play at my university and so the characters were all too real for me because my friends were playing them, but I really loved this story. The symbolism is just great and there's a lot of food for thought. Many people who came to see our production didn't understand the work, and I must admit, it is obscure and fairly difficult to understand. Don't let that get in your way. This is a must read, if only because of those cooky and creepy street cleaners, and a bunch of cameos by some very famous characters.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quote from editor's note, July 19, 2000
This review is from: Camino Real (Paperback)
"It had its Broadway premiere on March 19,1953, at the Martin Beck Theatre. The production was directed by Elia Kazan, with the assitance of Anna Sokolow."
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3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Williams Work, January 13, 2000
This review is from: Camino Real (Paperback)
all i have to say is:
make voyages, attempt them, there's nothing else
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Camino Real (New Directions Paperbook)
Camino Real (New Directions Paperbook) by Tennessee Williams (Paperback - October 31, 2008)
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