I have been fortunate enough in the last few months to see two productions of Tennessee Williams’ works. Last month I saw the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s The Glass Menagerie and then more recently I saw barebones productions showing of A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s been a very dramatic and Southern winter for me so far.
Now of course no one is making me pick, but I’ll tell you up front that I consider Streetcar a far superior show to Menagerie (and this is based solely on scripts). Williams’ classic play focuses on Blanche DuBois, a Southern belle visiting her sister Stella in her less than desirable home in New Orleans. Even less desirable is Stella’s husband Stanley, a hot-headed working man who clashes with Blanche almost immediately. As Blanche crashes on the couple’s couch we begin to see her unravel and many dark secrets start working their way to the surface. It’s a beautifully composed drama and I’ll spare you my raving about the script and get to raving about the production.
Blanche is a really fantastic role and Tami Dixon absolutely shines in it. Her Blanche seems shallow and annoying at first, but she is really so complicated and disturbed. Blanche puts on airs around people to hide the moments in her past that are haunting her. It might seem like Ms. Dixon is playing her too over-dramatically, but no: that’s who Blanche is. It’s such a layered performance and gets better the more it keeps going. Dixon also has a knack for delivering lines that are funny but still move the tragic plot along. Put simply, she’s a great Blanche.
Patrick Jordan also turns in a terrific performance as Stanley. If you wanna talk “layered”, well here it is: Stanley is dopey, smart, charismatic, piggish, terrifying, and tender. Mr. Jordan is downright charming when he needs to be, but incredibly intimidating when Stanley starts yelling and banging things around the house. The dynamic between Stanley and Blanche is incredibly fun to watch, and you find yourself constantly switching sides between the two of them. The main cast is rounded out by Jenna C. Johnson as Stella and Jeffrey Carpenter as Blanche’s suitor Harold Mitchell, who both give very real and moving performances.
The set is large but features a small room, an appropriate feeling for the huge personalities trapped in a tight space. The dilapidated walls of the apartment work well with the back brick wall of The New Hazlett, creating a really perfect setting for the play. I found the music that played when Blanche is having flashbacks a bit distracting, although that may be part of the script. The songs that played between scene changes were also a bit odd, I think more instrumental choices would’ve been better.* Also there were a few sound slip-ups the night I saw it, but the cast didn’t get phased by them and kept pushing through.
Barebones Productions’ Streetcar leaves me desiring two things. One, I wish I could write a whole paper on this play, because it really is such a strong and fantastic drama. Two, I wish Barebones Productions were doing shows more regularly. That’s not a complaint to them, I understand there’s a lot of factors I know nothing about when it comes to putting on plays. But I’ve seen two productions of theirs now (A Steady Rain is the other) and they continue to leave me impressed. I highly recommend you see A Streetcar Named Desire, especially if the drama you get at Thanksgiving isn’t satisfying enough for you.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Presented by barebones productions
@The New Hazlett Theater
Directed by Melissa Martin
Written by Tennessee Williams
Designed by Tony Ferrieri (scenery), Richard Parsakian (costumes), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting), Dave Bjornson (sound)
Starring Tami Dixon (Blance), Patrick Jordan (Stanley), Jenna C. Johnson (Stella), Jeffrey Carpenter (Mitch), Ryan Borgo (young collector), Siovhan Christensen (neighbor/flower merchant), Christian Danti Poloni (Pablo), Cindy Jackson (nurse), Chris Josephs (doctor), Ben Mayer (Steve Hubbell), Jaime Slavinsky (Eunice Hubbell), Josh Gresh (pianist)*, Joe Grushecky (guitar/vocals)*.
*Upon checking the show website, I learned that most performance dates feature live music by Mr. Gresh and Mr. Grushecky instead of the recordings that I heard. I believe it’s the same song choices, but music is always better live. So be aware of that when it comes to selecting a performance date.
The show runs until December 6th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Special thanks to barebones productions for two complimentary press tickets.
Performance Date: November 22, 2014