I wrote a review for Broadway Informer for this season’s revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. Here it is!
This latest production of A Streetcar Named Desire is severely underrated. Many critics have had visions of Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando (the stars of the 1951 film) and Cate Blanchett (who played Blanche in the 2009 revival at BAM) dancing in their heads and could not appreciate the production with a fresh eye.
Yes, this Streetcar takes a departure with its multiracial cast. Produced by the same company that brought an all-black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to Broadway in 2008, Streetcar’s ethnic ensemble includes Nicole Ari Parker as Blanche, Blair Underwood as Stanley, and Daphne Rubin-Vega as Stella. Parker’s Blanche was revelatory. Her strength in the role made sense, as she had lived alone for many years harboring her secrets before coming to Stanley and Stella’s home. Only now does her resolve begin to crumble, and it is a sight to behold.
The other cast members also deliver solid performances. Underwood’s Stanley (née Kowalski, as the production excises references to his Polish background) is equal parts menacing and captivating (he also looks great shirtless). And Rubin-Vega takes a capable turn as Stella, providing the balance to Blanche and Stanley’s extremes.
The very existence of this production is fabulous. A recent survey of Broadway and leading nonprofit theater companies found that in the past five theater seasons, only 13.2% and 3.5% of African Americans and Latinos were employed. This production helps to alleviate that problem. It also gives deserving actors an opportunity they would not have had otherwise. Far more than a novelty production, this revival of Streetcar is an exciting production in its own right, bringing a new and refreshing take on a classic.
Favorite scene/song: The birthday scene. The tension was high, and I got a real sense of the dynamic in Stanley’s household.
What is the show about? The tragic destruction of a Southern belle when she goes to stay at her sister and brother-in-law’s home.
Who is this show for? Theatergoers and Williams fans interested in a new take on Streetcar, as well as young audience members needing an introduction to a classic.
What’s good/bad? Besides the acting described above, the direction by Emily Mann, and the set design by Eugene Lee is great. I also enjoyed the production’s attention to bringing out the humor of the play. The only quibble I had was Blanche and Stanley’s pivotal scene (those who are familiar with the play know what I’m talking about). Despite all the build-up, it had high shock value and not as much emotional impact.
What happened at the Stage Door? We had to wait a bit longer than usual because the director was giving the cast notes. Almost everyone came out to sign playbills and take photos, and they were all very kind and gracious.