A Streetcar Named Desire
The action occurs in a well-worn two-room, lower portion of a house in New Orleans. It is 1947 and Stanley Kowalski (Christopher Innvar) is about to go bowling. He works, plays cards, drinks and bowls. Stella loves him, and her sexual attachment is real and literal. Twice during the production, she leaps into his arms and simultaneously wraps her legs about him.
Mazzie is radiant, fading and insecure as Blanche, a former Southern belle who clings to a desperate hope that a better life will be hers. The actress has starred many times on Broadway, notably in Passion, Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate. Mazzie, a tall woman, is distinctive as Blanche. One senses that a graceful individual lives within the constriction of her rigid carriage. Stauffer is more compact and appears to be uncomfortable when a pregnancy shows. Her performance, too, is top caliber.
To arrive at the Kowalskis' home, Blanche boarded a streetcar named Desire, then moved on to one called Cemetery, and finally came to Elysian Fields. While she brings a story that she took a leave from her position as a school teacher, this is not the case. It becomes evident that she is lying about this and about her age, too. Blanche, lonely to the point of despair, soon clings to Stanley's friend Mitch (Kevin Carolan), who is large and well-meaning. It is Stanley who ultimately exposes Blanche and accelerates her journeyone which will lead to madness.
Brian Prather's set is most authentic. Combining wrought iron with wooden slats, he brings us to a shabby section of the French Quarter. Boyd makes it all the more genuine as she often introduces scenes through the blues: Chavez Ravine sings while Thom Rivera is the instrumental accompanist. A most appropriate period wardrobe is furnished by costumer Elizabeth Flauto.
Stauffer's Stella is very light on her feet during the early going, almost dancing to meet her sister when the already distraught Blanche comes for her visit. Blanche fiddles with her hands, worries about her looks constantly and is the picture of self-deception. She holds tenuously her last shreds of sanity. Dismayed at first that the apartment grants her almost no privacy, she grows accustomed when harboring the notion she and Mitch will be married.
Innvar, as Stanley, is neither sympathetic nor charismatic. He is a one-dimensional laborer who enjoys sex. Now an intruder (Blanche), whom he neither values nor likes, comes along and, to him, three is a crowd. Better off sweating and guzzling with his buddies, he discerns that Blanche is a fraud. The character of Stanley, for this production, is a necessity.
As ever, Williams is poetic and his choice of language symbolic and beautiful. Blanche, of course, is white and Stella stands for star. The streetcar must be named Desire.
Boyd's ability to cast cannot be underestimated as the quality of performance, throughout, is excellent. She, her actors and creative team bring us a provocative Streetcar. This production is one about women: the actresses Marin Mazzie and Kim Stauffer as well as the director, Julianne Boyd. From a play which Williams originally titled The Poker Game, we have a classic which includes Blanche's last line: "Whoever you are – I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
A Streetcar Named Desire continues at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts through August 29th. For tickets, call the box office at (413) 236-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org.
- Fred Sokol