Monday, November 9, 2009

"A Streetcar Named Desire"


The Sydney Theater Company's production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire at Washington, D.C.'s The Kennedy Center is absolutely incredible. Cate Blanchett stars as Blanche DuBois in the Liv Ullmann-directed play. I believe this could rank as one of the best plays I've ever seen.

Blanchett is a great actress, as we knew from her films. The real showcase of an actor's talent seems to be whether or he or she can perform well in front of a live audience. Blanchett passed this test with flying colors.

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Vivien Leigh as Blanche first made this play famous in the 1950s. Though that was over 50 years ago, the play still seems relevant.

For those unfamiliar with the plot of this tragic play, beware, it'll break your heart. Blanche is an aging Southern belle, who has come to live with her sister, Stella (played by Robin McLeavy), and her husband, Stanley (Joel Edgerton), in New Orleans. She proceeds to put on airs about her sister's living conditions, but she won't say why she has come to live with them other than the fact that she lost their family home, Belle Rive, and took a leave from her teaching job.

Stanley is a brutish hard-working, hard-drinking man, but Stella (who is a good sister but an annoying push-over) is crazy about him. Blanche and Stanley don't get along. Mitch, a friend of Stanley's, is smitten with Blanche. As the story unravels, we discover that Blanche's story is quite tragic - from the death of her young husband to the reason she lost her teaching job and was kicked out of her town.

I love how the play began with a light shining on DuBois and ended in the same way. There were also striking tableau vivants throughout the play. There were a few times that the audience laughed at awkward points that were meant to be tragic including Blanche's famous closing line, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." However, at the end, the actors got four call-backs! I've never seen that before.

The company is performing at The Kennedy Center. through November 20. Then they will perform at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on November 27-December 30. Tickets are sold out, though the site says that some partial view tickets are available if you call 718.636.4100. If you're in D.C. or NYC, I would highly recommend trying to get tickets for this play - Craigslist perhaps? It's definitely worth it.

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