Old Academy Stays on Track with STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

by Stephen Blumenthal

Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden starred in the original production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, now being presented as the final show of Old Academy Players 2012-2013 season. This is quite a group of actors to compete against and fortunately director J.P. Parrella doesn’t attempt to. He takes the talents of each of his actors and develops, for the most part, a fine production.

We meet Blanche Dubois (Nancy Bennett) a fading, but still attractive, Southern belle whose pretentions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Bennett (almost too pretty for the role) takes us along with her on the painful trip that ends with a complete mental breakdown. During her journey, we sense the ability this actress has to build the character of Blanche to the final moments of her collapse.

Blanche has come to live with her sister, Stella Kowalski (Kellie Cooper) and her husband, Stanley (Bernard Glincosky), not to his delight. Having seen Cooper in WAITING FOR THE FAT LADY TO SING and commenting on how well she performed, I was looking forward to seeing her again. I was not disappointed. The arrival of Blanche has upset Stella and Stanley’s system of mutual dependence. The subtle movements and overt glances quickly let us know that Stella is aware of the problem and fears the future. Cooper is capable of enhancing a scene with her characterization, whether or not she speaks; a rare community theater acting quality. Stella’s husband, Stanley is rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. His battle with Blanche is, at times, almost frightening in its intensity. Glincosky, physically fits the role, but I felt his director might have had him develop more of a varied conflict between himself and Stella, then a war. These two characters do love each other, but it seemed that Glincosky’s Stanley did not show that love when it would have been appropriate to do so. We learn that Stella is pregnant and that should give Stanley the reason to ease up somewhat on her. Into this boiling cauldron comes Mitch (Patrick Martin) Stanley’s poker partner, best friend and potential suitor for Blanche. Mitch’s scenes with Blanche are touching and painful to watch. Mitch, still living with his dying mother,wants desperately to develop a relationship with Blanche. Through Stanley he learns of Blanche’s shadowy background and confronts her in a brutal scene. Martin’s ability to go from suitor to hater with such violence is something to witness.

The remaining characters do their jobs and add to the flow of the story. I particularly enjoyed Chris Covone, the paper boy in his confused meeting with Blanche-on-the-make.

It takes a great deal of courage for a community theater to produce a classic like STREETCAR. Old Academy Players pulled it off.

by Tennessee Williams
Directed by J.P. Parrella
June 7-23, 2013
Old Academy Players
3540-44 Indian Queen Lane
Phila, PA 19129

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