PLAYBILL PICKS: Tennessee Williams' Five Most Memorable Divas, Including Amanda Wingfield

By Robert Simonson
06 Feb 2013

Margaret Colin and Derek Cecil in Sweet Bird of Youth at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Photo by Allison Leger

Alexandra Del Lago, aka Princess Kosmonopolis, Sweet Bird of Youth.

Like Maggie in Cat, Alexandra Del Lago dominated the first act of the play she inhabits, Sweet Bird of Youth. Originated by Geraldine Page, Alexandra is — like many other Williams ladies — a scrapper and survivor, hanging on to the gauzy beauty of bygone days. In this case, her attachment to fantasy is professional — she's a film actress, one whose prime has passed, but can be seen fleetingly in the face of the hungry and youthful gigolo Chance Wayne.

Ashley called Alexandra her favorite Williams female. "She is an adventuress and the quintessential survivor," she said. "She never lies — by omission or commission — she has no illusions or delusions, except one, and that destroys her life. But she still survives."

Margaret Colin played the role in a 2006 production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. "I loved her dilemmas," Colin said. "There are shadows of several other Williams women in there. There's a little overlap with Amanda, and echoes of Blanche — the need to see beauty in the world. And the sexuality. She's tragic and sexy and lonely and still holding onto her power and dreams. She demands intimacy from Chance; he's a beautiful loser and she sees people so clearly. She's selfish and then she's capable of enormous gestures. She really tries to help him."

Unlike most of Williams' female characters — but like Tom in Glass Menagerie — Alexandra talks straight to the theatregoer at times. "Those direct-addresses to the audience are just delicious," recalled Colin. "I think it's because she's an actress and she's very comfortable talking to the audience. As a middle-aged actress, it was great getting to say those things: 'I'm not done yet; I didn't do anything wrong; I just got older.'"

Read about the 1959 Broadway production of Sweet Bird of Youth in the Playbill Vault, the most comprehensive Broadway database on the internet.

(A version of this feature originally appeared on in April 2012.)