Theater of the American South's A Streetcar Named Desire | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Theater of the American South's A Streetcar Named Desire 

A Streetcar Named Desire

Photo by Keith Barnes

A Streetcar Named Desire

Let's face it: Blanche DuBois looks like a million bucks. In this muscular Theater of the American South production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Jordan Jaked's smart, sophisticated costumes and the parabolic platinum waves of Rebecca Larkin's hair designs transform actor Betsy Henderson into a walking vision from the silver screen. And that fact, in turn, makes her overdressed character even more of a fish out of water, if not an out-and-out anachronism, as she alights from a fatefully named streetcar into the dingy little district of New Orleans where her sister Stella lives at the start of Tennessee Williams' famous drama.

But as the playwright recalled in 1947—and we are still relearning over six years of banking crises—a million can turn into ashes overnight when confidence in the currency erodes. As we watch, Williams demonstrates that such a truth applies as much to cultural commerce as to its financial counterpart.

Having lost the family homestead, her job and her good name in her hometown, Blanche arrives on Stella's doorstep with the remains of their estate in a steamer trunk. But, as we know, she finds little shelter in the two spartan rooms Stella shares with her husband, Stanley. In this working, lower-middle-class neighborhood, the inhabitants are survivors for whom the refinements and airy pleasantries of antebellum life are breathtakingly irrelevant—or considered a dubious come-on instead.

Williams' script is known, of course, for the nearly operatic oratory of Blanche's later monologues, and it will come as no surprise to regional theatergoers that Henderson scales most of these peaks with élan. But under Marc Fajer's direction, Lily Nelson's robust performance as Stella uncovers a tantalizing mystery in Williams' text.

In this production, the two sisters are a study in contrasts. While Nelson's Stella is a salt-of-the-earth character with no discernable poise, poise is really all that Blanche has left. When we take the measure of them both, it's hard not to conclude that a powerful force was required to throw Stella clear of the emotional quicksand of the old plantation. Though the nature of that force remains a riddle in the text and this production, the resilience we see in Nelson's character makes us wonder more than momentarily what it was.

In Jason Sharp's work as Stanley, the telltale signs of post-traumatic stress referenced in Fajer's program notes are nuanced at first, before fully blossoming into violent outbursts. We savored Jason Peck's measured performance as Mitch, Stanley's co-worker, wartime buddy and Blanche's potential suitor. By play's end, both clearly stood as wounded warriors whose unaddressed pain and rage spins out to threaten all who are close to them.

But we questioned the blocking choices that rendered Blanche's second-act seduction of a paperboy unnecessarily opaque, and the directing choices that left her breakdown too hypothetical in our Sunday matinee performance. Threadbare street-life processions and a final ham-handed segue also detracted from the production.

Still, the workout given to Williams' script by four strong principals make this production well worth the trip to Wilson.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Southern accents."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

This looks wonderful! I cant wait until it goes on the road so we can see it in California!

by Michelle Nogales on Pioneering African-American Sci-Fi Author Octavia Butler’s Empathy and Foresight Take the Stage in Parable of the Sower (Theater)

Spelling error for one of the owners of RRE: it's Rebekah Carmichael, not Rachel Carmichael. Also, the shows run between …

by J Robert Raines on Raleigh Room Escapes Slips Through the Keyhole Between Room-Escape Games and Immersive Theater (Theater)

Most Recent Comments

This looks wonderful! I cant wait until it goes on the road so we can see it in California!

by Michelle Nogales on Pioneering African-American Sci-Fi Author Octavia Butler’s Empathy and Foresight Take the Stage in Parable of the Sower (Theater)

Spelling error for one of the owners of RRE: it's Rebekah Carmichael, not Rachel Carmichael. Also, the shows run between …

by J Robert Raines on Raleigh Room Escapes Slips Through the Keyhole Between Room-Escape Games and Immersive Theater (Theater)

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation