‘Streetcar’ follows track of well-worn period atmosphere |
Theater & Arts

‘Streetcar’ follows track of well-worn period atmosphere

Barebones Productions
Promotional image for Barebones Productions 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

In some ways, “A Streetcar Named Desire” is like a finely bound old book. The binding may be a bit worn and some of the story feels a bit old-fashioned. But the currents of desire and power that run beneath the action are eternal.

It’s been nearly 70 years since playwright Tennessee Williams’ play won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize. So, some of the attitudes and viewpoints that propel the drama forward — how men interact with or view women, an acceptance of violence in marriage — bring a distracting “ick” factor to some scenes.

Barebones Productions’ creative team and director Melissa Martin blunt some of that reaction by securely anchoring the play in its original post-World War II period. Set designer Tony Ferrieri provides us a sturdy, but run-down-looking, two-story set that reminds us we are in a low-income New Orleans neighborhood. Costume designer Richard Parsakian garbs the cast in outfits that are true to the period and indicators of the variety of economic status or aspirations of the characters.

You’re probably familiar with at least the outlines of the storyline: After losing her job and the family’s plantation home, Blanche DuBois turns up at her sister Stella’s one-room New Orleans apartment looking for a new start.

Blanche is appalled that her sister has happily chosen a husband for carnal, not financial, reasons. But she is both repulsed by and attracted to her sister’s rough, uneducated husband, Stanley. While the fragile Blanche searches for emotional and financial support, Stanley sets about discovering the secrets Blanche hoped to leave behind.

It’s easy to see this will not end well.

It’s a long play — three hours, including a 10-minute intermission. But Martin’s direction moves the proceedings along with efficiency.

The cast is first-rate. Patrick Jordan creates a savvy-but-suspicious Stanley, who knows how to do a background check or kill a relationship. Jenna C. Johnson provides us with a Stella who is young, fresh and clearly smitten with Stanley.

What’s surprising is that the sexual tension that should be driving the play remains largely buried. Stella’s playful girlishness minimizes the sexual desire that binds her to Stanley.

Interactions between Tami Dixon’s Blanche and Jordan’s Stanley remain business-like or mildly flirtatious. For a woman who’s supposedly delusional, Dixon’s Blanche can certainly hold her own against Stanley when discussing finance and real estate.

But the real heart of this production lies in the sub-plot — the evolving relationship between tortured, emotionally delicate Blanche and Jeffrey Carpenter’s lonely Harold Mitchell.

Their burgeoning relationship is a meeting of minds, not bodies. Its destruction becomes the real tragedy of this drama.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, [email protected] or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.