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Monday, July 14, 2008

A Streetcar Named I-Wish-Mommy-and-Daddy-Would-Stop-Fighting

posted by on July 14 at 16:38 PM

While Christopher and Jen shout at each other about StreetcarChristopher: “You’re just gonna say Blanche was bad and not support it?” Jen: “I just couldn’t let your review stand!”—I’m putting up my goddamned review because I’m the goddamned theater editor and what I say (about theater) goes.


A Streetcar Named Desire
Intiman Theatre
Through Aug 2.

“I want to find the humor in Stanley,” director Sheila Daniels told me in an interview a few weeks before Streetcar opened. “Brando didn’t find it.”

Daniels—and actor Jonno Roberts—did. Those able to tear themselves from the image of Saint Brando will see new dimensions in Tennessee Williams’s icon of masculine inadequacy and rage. He’s funny and loutish, still a sexual tiger but more vulnerable. This Streetcar inspires thoughts of a prequel, when we find out how Stanley became Stanley.

Daniels’s production also shines a light on Mitch, mostly thanks to Tim True, who plays the victim of Blanche’s dishonesty and Stanley’s cruelty with a sad, mumbling grace. Angela Pierce as Blanche, gives a slick, orthodox performance, and sails through Blanche’s late-play mad scenes without succumbing to the crazy-person caricature that has wrecked so many Blanches, Ophelias, and Lears. Chelsea Rives is a quiet triumph, keeping Stella simple and doomed.

The wound in this Streetcar —and it’s a gaping, festering one—is the “Blue Piano,” the occasional music Williams describes in his stage notes as “tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers.” Daniels and sound designer Joseph Swartz apparently read this as “portentous chords laden with heavy reverb that bludgeon—and occasionally make a mockery of—the play’s pathos.” The ominous notes that followed Blanche’s revelation that her first husband was gay are egregiously goofy.

But Daniels has coaxed quality, multihued performances out of her actors. We will begin to remember them once we have forced ourselves to forget that goddamned piano. BRENDAN KILEY

RSS icon Comments


"...more vulnerable." ?!

Now I'm ascared.

Posted by umvue | July 14, 2008 4:52 PM

Yes! Thanks for validating my amateur opinion that the music was the real tragedy in this story. It made me wince every time it struck.

Posted by Raven | July 14, 2008 4:57 PM

What I want to know is: who in the cast or production are Stranger staffers sleeping with?

And why did they break up with the other one?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 4:59 PM

I agree with Brendan and Christopher and disagree with Jen and Mary McCarthy.

The woman who played Stella was the standout, but I thought the actors behind Blanche and Stanley both brought something new to the roles. This Stanley was weak--he audibly grunted when he lifted both Blanche and Stella, much to the chagrin of Ms. Graves--and casting Stanley's bad habits (spousal abuse, sister rape) as the work of a scared weakling was inspired. As for this Blanche, she was a real-live drunk, not some elliptical '50s drunk, and this paid off in both the early scenes (where she flits around twitching for a fix) and in the (spoiler alert!) rape scene. (Because the only thing worse than raping your wife's sister is raping your wife's sister's unconscious body.)

But the sound design is a hate crime.

Posted by David Schmader | July 14, 2008 5:58 PM

Also, Sheila Daniels is dead wrong in stating Brando failed to find the humor in Stanley.

For proof, consult the scene when he first meets Blanche, and talks about the girl who once told him, "I am the glamorous type."

Posted by David Schmader | July 14, 2008 6:03 PM

It is a dated turd of a play.

Don't be so provincial Seattle.

And B.K., why do you bother with such tripe?
What is next, a review of 'Guys and Dolls'?

Posted by Scott Dow | July 15, 2008 12:59 AM

I don't think "Guys and Dolls" is currently being produced in Seattle, which is sad because it's a classical American work, but thanks for playing.

Apparently Mr Dow would like to see something fresh and contemporary on stage; might I suggest a production of "High School Musical" or a staged reading of his favorite episode of "The Hills"?

Posted by michael strangeways | July 15, 2008 9:56 AM

@6,I have a lawyer acquaintance who understands more about theater than you.

On a related note, I wonder what ercentage of the cast actually lives in Seattle?

Posted by Frank Sinclair | July 15, 2008 3:07 PM

I'll remember Shelly Reynolds and Tim Hyland- because they made smallish roles interesting and seemed like actual real people. Stella and Mitch weren't especially memorable, but didn't throw the piece too far off track.

Can't say that about the two leads. I'll remember their performances only as an example of how easy it is to fall into cliched performances of those characters. Since when casting the leads, Intiman generally seems to require a resume including appearances on "Law and Order', it's interesting how unexceptional these out-of-town folks often are. Anyone remember diddly squat about the performance by Bart's choice for Richard III? If these folks were 'stars', at least you'd understand that they are needed to put asses in the seats.

I agree with David S re Brando's humor. To counter this, SD seemed to interject yuks were there weren't supposed to be any (like when Stanley is tearing thru Blanche's suitcase)- which forced a hamfisted return to the anger/resentment that is supposed to be there.

Posted by brueso | July 16, 2008 10:29 AM

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