Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Streetcar Named Desire"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey

"Desire" Under the Realm

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

The small patch of red sky over the French Quarter reflects the gases trapped in the neon signs flashing over the tenements---and the heat is almost palpable. The New Repertory Theatre’s sultry revival of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (playing through Oct. 7th) arrives sixty years after the original yet society still grapples with the issues of domestic violence and child abuse Williams wrote about so eloquently in this masterpiece of the American theater. Director Rick Lombardo creates a tight little neighborhood realm for Stanley Kowalski. His buddies all live nearby and everyone knows everyone’s business. Prostitutes, fishmongers, rowdies all pass by Stella and Stanley’s stoop. There’s plenty of noise behind closed doors, too, especially from the feuding landlord and his wife. Lombardo captures an atmosphere and a rhythm which is brought to a halt when Stella’s disapproving sister appears.

Rachel Harker gives a bravura performance as the desperate, ethereal Blanche DuBois. You’re taken aback by her haughty airs of superiority and lack of tact with her brother-in-law but Harker truly makes you understand that Blanche is using all her energy to keep from imploding. Her fragile voice quavers and her hands try to catch the air for balance, as if it could hold her.

Todd Alan Johnson, as Stanley, paints a portrait of a man who is used to getting his way. He’s pushed to the breaking point when his wife and her sister gang up on him to put him in his “place.” He needs to be king of his castle and he reacts to the threat the only way he knows, with violence.

Marianna Bassham is a Stella who pushes back, at Stanley and at her sister. It’s difficult nowadays to see why she would stay with a man who hits her but Bassham makes the case when we see them in each other’s arms. Bates Wilder gives the character of Mitch a vulnerability which stings all the more when he cruelly throws over the wounded Blanche. Maureen Keiller and Paul D. Farwell provide hearty comic relief and Haddon Kime’s city sounds ratchet up the claustrophobia in Janie E. Howland’s two-room, down-at-heel set.

This is Blanche’s play this time. All we want for her is to find that “cleft in the rock of the world to hide in.”

"A Streetcar Named Desire" (12 September - 7 October)
Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, WATERTOWN MA
1(617) 923-8487

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide