A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Presented by Repertory. Directed by Dan Bain. Elmwood Auditorium. 11 – 28 May, 2016. Reviewed by Kineta Knight Booker.
I wanted to call my first-born Tennessee, and seeing A Streetcar Named Desire reminded me exactly why I wanted to honour him with that name. Tennessee Williams’ passion for the spoken and written word, his eloquence as a talented playwright, the deep stories he found himself writing: all these things are within the script of Streetcar, and it’s no wonder the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948.
It’s a story centred around Blanche DuBois (Naomi Ferguson), who moves to New Orleans to be with her sister Stella (Margot Gray) and Stella’s husband Stanley (Sebastian Boyle). Stella is in a loving but violent relationship, and Blanche and Stanley staunchly dislike each other.
I can’t recall a play, directed by Dan Bain, that hasn’t been anything short of amusing. So does he get drama right? In a word – yes.
It wasn’t Bain’s fault that there was constant backstage talking. Not even whispering, talking. And thumping, rustling, crashing and banging. Actually, what was happening in the wings on stage left through the entire play? It was utterly distracting for the audience, and downright rude to the actors onstage.
And it wasn’t Bain’s fault there was a 4.7 magnitude quake in the middle of the performance. In fact, it added to the drama, and Ferguson handled Mother Nature with incredible professionalism.
What Bain can take credit for is casting a fantastic leading four, and their portrayal of the characters.
Blanche appears strong and proper, but is in fact incredibly fragile. Ferguson is outstanding in this role, as we see her character develop through the play. She’s a lovely actress with a powerful stage presence.
The chemistry and combination of Boyle and Gray is very good. It’s clear that Boyle is a strong actor, but perhaps, at times, a little subtle in his role as the abuser. Gray is stunning. She’s perfect in the role of Stella: lovely, ever-forgiving, ensures everyone is happy, making excuses for the abuse.
And Mitch (Noam Wegner) is awkward, fumbling and loveable. “Poker should not be played in a house with women,” is certainly a line to remember.
The themes of rape and abuse were handled with a filter, with much of it being implied, which worked well.
The only scene that was a let down was unfortunately the opening sequence. The two women who opened the show turned their heads away from the audience, rushed their sentences and ate their words. It almost set the scene for a clumsy play but luckily Ferguson’s entrance changed that.
It’s a tough auditorium to perform in, but the set design did well to make it feel like a theatre. And a nod to the lighting team. It played an important role throughout with its emotiveness, and by creating an atmosphere perfect for this play.