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Wednesday, 11 April 2012 07:43

'Streetcar' Lurches Along

Written by Connie Bollinger
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I'm not a fan of Tennessee Williams. I find most of his plays dark and rather hard to watch, like witnessing a family fight at Christmas dinner or watching a freight train approach a group of bunnies.

"A Streetcar Named Desire" is probably one of the hardest of Williams' works to act and to direct. Throughout the play, the actors and director teeter precariously on the cliff of melodrama and they must walk that line breath held on tiptoe.

"Streetcar" is the story of the Southern Belle Blanch Dubois now gone to seed and her inability to deal with the real world where people have sex and (gasp) say bad words. Blanch is silly, pretentious, and broken, in the middle of a severe nervous breakdown when she flees her hometown due to a scandal and moves in with her sister and husband Stanley Kowalski in 1947 New Orleans.

Stanley is a big, loud, crude hulk of a man not above smacking his pregnant wife around when he gets drunk. Wife Stella is besotted by Stanley, making excuses for his behavior in fine co-dependent fashion. They live in a run down section of New Orleans in two rooms and a bath as dumpy a roach infested hovel as you can imagine. Enter Miss Blanche who is already living inside her own head, jumping at any sound, unable to abide loud voices, accustomed to plantation life of fading elegance, destitute and on her last legs. What could possibly go wrong?

There's a lot of violence in this play, mostly perpetrated on the women as was, unfortunately, the norm back in postwar America. I once heard a woman of that era explaining to the younger women, "as long as he doesn't draw blood or give you any permanent type injury, getting a good smack across the face once in a while is just part of being married." Ah, the good old days.

Director Larry D Quiggins offers us an uneven production, one lacking, in my opinion, any depth of character or motive. Most of the Southern accents are right out of Petticoat Junction, are distracting, and should have been avoided. Joe Bayne as Stanley and Andrea Grey as Blanche have no sexual tension between them at all and when he finally takes her to bed and she puts up no resistance we're supposed to believe it was there all along. I wasn't convinced.

These are all fixable, however. Lose the accents, bring Blanche's shrillness down a notch, inject some real sexual tension between Blanch and Stanley, allow Stella to be the cornerstone of sanity that she was written to be, and this production can go from mediocre to exceptional in no time. The actors are very good, the sets are perfect, and the ensemble cast shines.

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