|A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
About A Streetcar Named Desire
Star-powered revivals of classic plays aren't always bursting with artistic merit. Happily that is not the case with the multiracial production of A Streetcar Named Desire now on Broadway. Tennessee Williams's 1947 drama of obsession and destruction gets a scintillating revival thanks to director Emily Mann and her polished but still emotionally evocative cast.
Mann's production, set in 1952, captures the mood and the menace of post World War II New Orleans, thanks to wonderfully detailed designs from Eugene Lee (set), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Edward Pierce (lighting) and Mark Bennett (sound). Williams’s play, of course, chronicles the downfall of Blanche DuBois, having lost her family's ancestral home, disrupts the claustrophobic French Quarter apartment her sister Stella shares with her lug of a husband, Stanley Kowalski, during one long, hot summer.
Blair Underwood may be the most easily recognizable face onstage, and he effectively sheds his clean-cut image to tackle the coarse, obtuse, sexually dangerous Stanley (the role epitomized by Marlon Brando onscreen). Every bit his foil is Wood Harris (The Wire), as Stanley’s kindhearted buddy Mitch. And Daphne Rubin-Vega beautifully depicts a Stella torn between especially her husband and sister.
But it's Nicole Ari Parker who makes the strongest impression, slipping into the skin of the self-destructive, fragile Blanche with aplomb. In her sure hands, Blanche emerges as much more than an aging beauty on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She's also a gentle, surprisingly sympathetic creature.
In fact, Parker's utterance of the play's most famous line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," is all the more chilling because we get the sense that Blanche has not lost her mind – and that she's very much aware of what's in store for her.
BY DIANE SNYDER
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Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Wood Harris, Carmen DeLavallade, Amelia Campbell, Aaron Clifton Moten, Jacino Taras Riddick, Matthew Saldívar, Count Stovall
235 West 44th St.
New York, NY
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