SHOWING : June 23, 2005 - August 06, 2005
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Daniel May and Carolyn Cook star in this sultry, American classic.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Tuesday, June 28, 2005 ||
I was going to delay writing these notes for a week or two, until I had time for this production to “sink in” a little. But, after Wendell Brock’s way-off-the-mark review in this morning’s AJC, I felt I had to weigh in with my two cents (or five stars, as the case may be).|
This is my fourth “Streetcar” experience (5th, if you want to count the movie), including one production for which I designed lights. This is, by far, the best of them. I have never seen the characters so clearly delineated, the stakes so sharply exposed, the heat so high, or the ending so moving. Every choice made by the production team was in synch with how I’ve always read and understood this play.
To start my rebuttal to Mr. Brock, his column gives the impression that he believes this play is about sex, and he takes Georgia Shakespeare to task for not being provocative enough to suit him. This is a very shallow reading of the play. My take was always that sex was the “symptom” of a darker center – that the play was about the hole in Blanche’s character that she desperately needs to fill – sex and desire being only one of those lifelines she grasps at. Carolyn Cook, more than any other Blanche I’ve seen, makes this apparent. Her desperate seduction of the young boy, her from-the-bones cry of relief at Mitch’s embrace, her constant dwelling on her failed first marriage (with only the gunshot memory stopping the dance music in her head) – all these elements contribute to a near-perfect portrait of Williams’ heroine. If it was all about Blanche’s “hypocrisy” (as Stanley sees it) or all about sex (as Mr. Brock sees it), then the cruel attack at the end would not have had the devastating effect it on her that it does.
Mr. Brock also complains that Daniel May’s portrayal of Stanley is a bit too likable (even resorting to the snide comment “Betcha didn’t think that about Brando”). Well, no I didn’t, and that was the problem I’ve always had with Brando’s performance, powerful as it is. We don’t see what attracts Stella to him (other than physical desire). Yes, Stanley does some unspeakably cruel things; however the dialogue and the attitudes of the other characters make it clear that there is kindness in him, that it is more than a sexy body that keep Stella with him.
Daniel May does show us that side. Without downplaying his darker animal nature, we see the other side, the side that Blanche is blind to. Because of this, we see how he had to “work” to win Stella, how Blanche’s influence is undermining his marriage. Because of this, his final cruelty is more believable, more supported by the circumstances, than by some arbitrary “animal nature” used by too many Brando wannabes.
In a more trivial vein, Mr. Brock grumbles about Mitch’s constant use of “mudder” instead of “mother” (how else do you say it in Brooklynesque New Orleans dialect?) and that the “jazz-club soundscape doesn’t always match the downbeat sadness of Williams’ language.” Again, I have to disagree. The purpose of the soundscape is to evoke the place and to evoke Blanche’s memories. That they were not all sad or minor-key added a contrast, a poignancy, that would have been lost if they directly mirrored the language.
To further defend the design of this production, I also appreciated how the “lightscape” made sharp and abrupt transitions from Blanche’s memories to the tenement reality. I liked how the shadow of the “Flores para los Muertos” flower seller loomed on the door like a harbinger of doom. I liked how the Mansion Image dominated the bed and the set, seeming to both suck Blanche’s soul into a whirlpool of memory, and to crush Stanley’s marriage with the threat of the past.
I really liked Courtney Patterson’s work as Stella. For the first time, I saw a complex woman who has chosen her mate and her life, not a meek punching-bag lost to her brutish husband. For the first time I could understand why she chooses Stanley over Blanche. This is a Stella who is infinitely more interesting than any I have seen before.
Which brings me to the ending. For the first time, the Doctor doesn’t come across as a cruel jailer come to seal Stanley’s victory. He is a genuinely kind man, who instantly sees what Blanche needs, and provides the “kindness of strangers” that is such a cold substitution for the kindnesses she really craves. In that instant, all the elements of the play come together, the guilt and desire and emptiness of Blanche, the anger of Mitch, the smug victory of Stanley, the guilty relief and sadness of Stella. Add to that the realization that this is probably the best thing that could happen to Blanche, that, cold as the Doctor’s kindness is, it is far warmer than anything else she has experienced, that this could actually be “happy ending” for her, and you’re left with an incredibly complex emotional punch to the gut unlike anything you’re likely to see this year.
And, for the record, I found Carolyn Cook’s Blanche to be incredibly steamy and sexy and erotic in almost every scene. One tends to wonder exactly what Mr. Brock does find sexy.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || by StaceyLucas|
| Bravo. This is one of the best reveiws I've ever read. And I'm not just saying it because I work for Georgia Shakespeare. You really should do this for money, you know.|
| || You mean there's someone who'll pay me to do this? :-) by Dedalus|
| Thanks for your kind words. In all seriousness, I'd make a lousy professional reviewer -- for example, I don't like to post negative reviews until after a show has closed, and I'm very good at letting "back reviews" accumulate. I write these primarily for myself, and I post them to start discussions. |
| || Wendell & the show by chapeldog|
| I saw Street Car and was quite impressed with the show. I thought there were some overly long "acting moments" and the show should run about 20 minutes shorter - BUT it is very well done.|
The play for me is not about just sex - it is about the fight for control of Stella - who gets her Blanche or Stanley? It's really about the threat to the relationship between Stanley and Stella and Blanche's need for bringing back a piece of her life that she desperately needs.
My only criticism is the set - that piece of the puzzle left me wondering "Why?" Not much of a set for this play. It did leave me feeling like everything was pulled back from the audience, and the opportunities to block scenes like the critical end and the beginning of the play were extremely limited by the choice to make the bedroom so prominant.
Wendell seems to be getting worse and worse at reviews - they aren't really reviews, they are bizzarre opnion pieces - poorly informed pieces at that. Maybe they should just publish him in the editorial section rather than hire him to be a Theatre critic.
One note - I am not sure that Stella chooses Stanley over Blanche in the end - I have always felt that the end implies that Blanche leaves Stanley (as written by Williams - not the choice for the staging of the GSF production).
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)