Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 12, 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through August 29, 2009
by Meghan Lynn Allen

When the four words "A Streetcar Named Desire" are uttered, a few classic images instantly pop into mind. Barrington Stage rises to the task of living up to those images many have held onto for all these years.

Scenic Designer Brian Prather and Lighting Designer Scott Pinkney immediately draw the audience into 1940's New Orleans and the Kowalski household that subsist in the slums of the French Quarter. Marin Mazzie plays Blanche Dubois, the unstable, delicate, gracelessly aging, southern belle who makes a game of avoiding reality at all costs. Mazzie's progression as Blanche transforms from fragile, needy, and worn down to completely unhinged and tragic in three acts is admirable. Christopher Innvar portrays the role of Stanley Kowalski, made most famous by Marlon Brando. Innvar fits the bill as muscular, imposing, and brutish, as well as tall, dark, and handsome. The audience adores him when he passionately and literally sweeps Stella (Kim Stauffer) off her feet, and despises him when he is heartlessly cruel to Blanche and needlessly and excessively aggressive to everyone else. Stauffer tenders a believable depiction of Stella, Stanley's wife and Blanche's younger sister. Her performance, though understated in comparison to her counterparts, offers a truth and innocence to the piece that is required. Kevin Carolan (Mitch) and Jennifer Regan (Eunice) provide stand-out supporting performances.

Directed by Julianne Boyd, "A Streetcar Named Desire" mostly lives up to its iconic predecessors. However, there are a few missteps. Amazingly talented blues singer Chavez Ravine and jazz musician Thom Rivera offer spectacular performances that set the mood of New Orleans, though their performances feel unconnected to the reality of the piece and at times distracting. Overly stylized silhouettes of townspeople and exaggeratedly symbolic marching of the doctor and nurse also garner unwanted attention away from such a meaty piece. Finally, for an iconic story that is inherently graphically violent and sexual, somehow the rape scene falls a bit flat and incongruous to the excellent work of the actors and Tennessee Williams.