After a career that had produced some of the defining works of the America stage, Tennessee Williams finally wrote what would the last of his plays to be considered a work of distinction appropriately situated alongside A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Night of the Iguana premiered on Broadway just a few days shy of the dawn of 1962. From that initial performance at the Royale Theatre would stem a successful production earning the playwright his fourth New York Drama Critics Award. While the play would eventually lose out to A Man for All Seasons at the Tony Awards, Margaret Leighton would pick up the award for Best Leading in Actress in a Play for originating the role of Hannah.
As is usually the case with a Tennessee Williams drama, Night of the Iguana tells of a story of strained sexuality between characters with a Gothic eccentricity. While some critics complained that certain elements were derivative of his former masterpieces, others contended that it broke new ground by revealing more of the personality of the tortured artist behind its creation. The drama has also stimulated debate for decades over the precise symbolic meaning of the play’s titular lizard that is forced to spend almost the entire night dedicated to it tethered to the veranda. More troubling than the abstraction of what the iguana means for others is the concrete appearance of a group of German tourists that—to many—seem utterly superfluous to the plot and exist merely as a contrivance to introduce humor.
The play has been adapted into two films. The 1964 version starred Richard Burton, was directed by John Huston, and earned four Academy Award nominations. A 2000 Serbo-Croation adaptation was directed by Janusz Kica.