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A CurtainUp Review
Ten Blocks on the Camino Real
The play opens memorably as the huddled cast more or less processes into the room singing snatches of song and muttering bits of conversation. The serviceable stage set and unsophisticated lighting lend the feel of a 60s experimental production.
The show's action flits across the surface of mortality as women in delightful colorful dresses, shiny gowns and poor muslins interact and dance with men, some in summer linen suits. The music, and specifically Richard Gross's guitar accompaniment, lends much to the ambiance. Streetcar's plaintive refrain "Flores para los muertos" is woven in. (Williams was working on both plays at the same time.)
Atypical of Williams's work, Ten Blocks shows Strindberg's influence in its unconventional and dreamlike approach to time and place. References collide: Characters who actually lived , like Casanova, mix it up with those borrowed from literature: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza make an appearance, Among the many clear signs that this is the earliest version is that Don Quixote comes in at the end. In subsequent manifestations he's brought in earlier. Proust's Baron DeCharlus is co-opted as well. Williams said Proust "made the passage of time a controlled torrent of personal experience and sensibilities to it."
The somnolent pace of this fond tribute to Tennessee's dream-rumination could use shaking up. And one niggling little point: Williams specified that the American pronunciation of "CAM-in-o REAL" be used. But this production employs an inexplicable hybrid: "Ca-MEEN-o (pronounced the Spanish way) with "REAL" (pronounced the Anglo way).
Medicine Show's useful program fills in the play's background and provides song lyrics in Spanish and English. It's good to see this valuable artifact from the Williams oeuvre resurrected. It's his poetic paean to imagination, love, and waiting death.