When Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer-winning A Streetcar Named Desire first hit theatres in 1947, it was considered one of the most shocking and brilliant works ever written. Now, sixty-one years later, it's hard to argue with that line of thinking.
Jonno Roberts as Stanley Kowalski and Angela Pierce as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at Intiman Theatre; Chelsey Rives (behind Roberts) plays Stella. Photo by Chris Bennion.
Streetcar, with its raw emotions, unconventional characters, and daring plot, is certainly a well-written one; but we all know that what even the most stunning play can't be brought to life by insipid actors. Luckily, the cast of Intiman's production was anything but. Every one of them, from the rambunctious but kind neighbor woman (Khatt Taylor) to the battered but loyal Stella (Chelsey Rives) were masters of inflection, timing, and expression. Rives provided a nice touch by infusing her character with more strength than would be expected from such a character.
The most important players are Stanley Kowalski (Jonno Roberts) and Blanche DuBois (Angela Pierce.) The prissy Blanche relentlessly criticizes the common, rough-hewn Stanley, who has married her sister Stella. Since clashes of pride and background are what ultimately lead to Streetcar's heart-wrenching conclusion, one shoddy actor could spoil the play. Instead, both actors gave their all, and the results were brilliant. Roberts perfectly toed the line between charismatic and loathsome, his character by turns humorous, menacing, and pitiable. At times he did veer towards melodrama, but given his loud and violent character that is to be expected.
Pierce too was melodramatic, but for her fractured and cartoonish character, melodrama was more than appropriate; it was necessary. Blanche DuBois is, in a sense, three characters; and Pierce played them all, switching seamlessly from voice to voice and pose to pose. Furthermore, she applied small touches that erased any skepticism about her ability to emote subtly. In one charged scene, something as small as her arm shaking struck me as one of the most effective conveyances of emotion I have ever witnessed.
Intiman is a small theatre, and there was one setting for the entire play. Luckily, it was an exquisite one, with carefully constructed squalor and glorious lighting. The sound effects, which included a live piano, served not only to entrance the audience but to throw light upon Blanche's fragile psyche. At one point, the use of thunder made me fear a descent into cliché, but my fear was unfounded; thunder was used only once. The grand finale, a haunting rendition of the folk song Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child, would leave any listener breathless. I exited the theatre babbling about the sheer splendor I had just experienced.
I was not the only one.
- Sophia B.
July 9th, 2008
A Streetcar Named Desire
Through August 2nd
Intiman's Ticket Office: 206-269-1900
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