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Commit if It Kills You


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To the editor:

Lawrence Bommer is one of Chicago's important critics. He's constructive, rarely cruel, and always generous when a production merits it. His review of Gift Theatre Company's new production of The Glass Menagerie appeared in last week's Reader [Section 2, October 28]. I have not seen this production but wish the company all the best. Mr. Bommer's statement that this otherwise excellent production is marred by "onstage smoking" is an affront to the memory of Tennessee Williams. Everyone knows, of course, that the character of Tom in the play is Williams. Tom without a cigarette is not Tom. A production of this major play without smoke reads as almost disrespectful. I guess it's because there is virtually no photo of Williams without a cigarette hanging from his mouth. (I'm not a theatrical purist. I already have my tickets to Court Theatre's coproduction of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House with Mabou Mines.) Contemporary Chicago theater was founded on grit and a rejection of puritanical midwestern audience expectations, coupled with absolute commitment to the project at hand. And you know what? I just thought of something. If Chicago goes the way of New York and LA and bans smoking in enclosed spaces without first thinking about things like aesthetic license and artistic freedom, what will become of those classic onstage smokers of the Williams canon? A Stanley or Blanche without a cigarette? Somebody please shoot me before I see that day.

Jeffrey Stephens

N. Pine Grove

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