Long considered a landmark play in the American theater, Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE won the playwright a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and introduced the theater world to Marlon Brando in a big way. In the original Broadway production, director Elia Kazan focused more on the character of Stanley while the touring productions and its director (Howard Clurman) turned sympathy back to Blanche DuBois. Blanche is front and center in this current production directed by Dave Ebersole.
Blanche DuBois (Cathy Gibbons Mostek), a relic of Southern sophistication and wealth, shows up on her sister Stella’s doorstop in New Orleans supposedly for just a visit. The fact is that she has lost her home, her job and driven out of town. She uses alcohol to shore up what remaining gumption she may have. Stella (Heather Ferrel) is happy to see her sister but not so happy at Blanche’s criticism of her unglamorous home and blue collar worker husband Stanley (Chris Cherkis). There isn’t anything refined about Stanley – what you see is what you get. Blanche is the polar opposite: she holds onto delusions of grandeur in spite of alternating states of perpetual panic and cold, calculating manipulation. Stanley sees through Blanche and refuses to buy into her act. This is the main source of friction between them throughout the play. It leads to an ugly conclusion.
You may have to go long and far to see a better portrayal of the vacillating Blanche DuBois than Cathy Gibbons Mostek. She was stunning. In some of her monologues the actress goes from fragility to viper and back with the greatest of ease. The iconic role of Blanche is one most actresses dream of playing and Ms. Mostek is outstanding. Heather Ferrel gives Stella an earthy and kindly air along with a hint of vulnerability and need that helps us to understand why she puts up with Stanley. Stella and Stanley are dependent on each other. Stanley’s need for Stella’s gentleness comes through several times during the course of the play and Chris Cherkis’ sweet looks and bombastic performance provides insight into the dynamics of their relationship. Some women are attracted to danger: Blanche and Stella literally join that sisterhood.
Stanley’s buddy, Mitch, is richly played by Thomas-Robert Irvin. He gives a powerful performance as Blanche’s would-be suitor. The rest of the cast including Kim Garrison are equally impressive.
Director Dave Ebersole keeps the pace moving even during the more maudlin moments in the story.
I would encourage the cast to watch their diction/elocution during the more excitable moments in the play when they would talk very fast and the words could not be understood. At times it was hard to see faces as the actors were not “cheating” out towards the audience.
If you have never seen this play on stage, you need to get tickets for the remaining run as soon as possible. This is the Colonial Theater’s 71st season and one worth celebrating. I came up from Newark, Delaware and it was well worth the trip.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Dave Ebersole
May 6-21, 2011
522 W. Magnolia Ave