Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Not your mother's Streetcar

by Jenni Morin

Tennessee Williams made great contributions to the American theatre repertoire, especially with his 1947 work A Streetcar Named Desire, which is now playing at The Little Carver Theatre through October 6, 2013. Streetcar, a Pulitzer Prize winning play, is an undeniable classic, a testament to Williams’ lyrical style and a relic from a turning point in theatre history not to be tampered with. Streetcar combats melodrama with realism, all the while painting a lurid portrait of a time and place occupied by intense characters of great depth.

Produced by Klose/Seale Productions in collaboration with The Renaissance Guild, director Carol Lee Klose’s production of Streetcar, on its surface, boldly brings the classic to life. Composer Alice Gomez’s original score accompanying the action laudably gave homage to Williams’ incessant “blue piano.” The set, designed by Chris Sauter, although not distinctly of New Orleans’ Quarter, is composed of a structure nearly too large for the space, but allows the playing area to extend to the catwalks above, evoking all those environmental details Williams meticulously weaves into the script. While it is difficult to distinguish whether the production takes place in New Orleans or San Antonio, save for lines in the play, it is even more difficult to pinpoint a decade mostly due to the partly modern and incongruous costuming of the female characters.

There are several themes present in the original piece, such as the fragility of females, the masculinity and sometimes bestial nature of males and the relationship dynamics between these two stereotypes of the time. Domestic abuse, promiscuity verging on prostitution and mental illness all lay on the surface, but are portrayed more as fact than anything to be analyzed or begging attention to affect change. This production, however, makes a statement, almost certainly not intended by Williams, by taking the implication of rape to a perpetrated act witnessed by the audience.

Tennessee Williams purists and those familiar with the script will be surprised at the line substitutions, some of which are an attempt to bring the production into a more modern decade, others are an assault on the sanctity of the original script. An obvious discrepancy in the ages of the characters and the actors playing them causes the themes of age and beauty to be misconstrued in proportion.

As Blanche, Sam Carter Gilliam personifies the melodramatic tendencies of the character. Rick Frederick, in contrast, takes more of a naturalistic approach to Stanley, akin to Marlon Brando who originated the role. Mindy Fuller portrays Stella as a mix between the two, perhaps mirroring the struggle to remain devoted to both her sister and her husband. Tori Foutz commands her role as Eunice and brings to life the spice of New Orleans along with the added People of New Orleans characters.

Streetcar, as a commentary on the contrast between realism and illusion, or “magic” as Blanche refers to it, challenges audiences to find truth amidst the drama. This production as a whole is a decent piece of theatre and features a talented cast and crew. It is not, however, the same Streetcar Williams wrote, but an interpretation better billed as an adaptation of the classic.

A Streetcar Named Desire runs at The Little Carver Civic Center theatre at The Carver Community Cultural Center through October 6, 2013 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.streetcarnameddesire.net.

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