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Tennessee Williams’ "Streetcar Named Desire" at the Broadhurst Theatre
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Tennessee Williams’ "Streetcar Named Desire" at the Broadhurst Theatre

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Stephen C. Byrd, Alia M. Jones, Anthony Lacavera
et al.

Tennessee Williams’
Streetcar Named Desire
(Show Website)

Directed by Emily Mann

Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Wood Harris

Amelia Campbell, Matthew Saldivar
Rosa Evangelina Arredondo, Carmen de Lavallade,
Aaron Clifton Moten, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Count Stoval

At the
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street

Scenic Design: Eugene Lee
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design: Edward Pierce
Sound Design: Mark Bennett
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Casting: Telsey + Company
Will Cantler, CSA
Fight Direction: Rick Sordelet
Vocal and Dialect Coach: Beth McGuire

Production Stage Manager: Lloyd Davis, Jr.
Advertising and Marketing: aka
Press Rep.: Springer Associates PR
Technical Director: Jake Bell, Production Services, Ltd.
General Manager: Roy Gabay
Company Manager: Bruce Kagel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 20, 2012

The setting is raw planks of wood, one cramped, downstairs New Orleans apartment, divided by a thin curtain, wooden crates as extra chairs, peeling, broken furniture, all in a hot glow of hazy, colored lighting. There’s a sense of smoky purple, like a downtown jazz club, and, literally, jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard has composed the bluesy music that envelops the searing scenes. Stanley (no Kowalski here) is Blair Underwood, one member of this African American ensemble. Stella is Daphne Rubin-Vega, Blanche is Nicole Ari Parker, and Mitch is Wood Harris, to complete the lead cast. Mr. Underwood is supremely muscular and explosive, allowing primal behavior to rule his roost. Ms. Rubin-Vega, as the pregnant Stella holds her own, but she’s diminutive, although feisty, and when she’s punched and bruised by the chronically abusive Stanley, the audience was vocally upset. In fact, tonight’s audience behaved like it was attending a boxing match, with consistent shouts, inappropriate laughter, and whoops, when Mr. Underwood removed his shirt.

Ms. Parker is elegantly stunning, and she deliberately uses her boas and lacy lingerie to lure Stanley’s hormones and to threaten Stella’s shriveled space. This Blanche knows how to strut, and her words pour like cognac, even as she holds the single bathroom hostage to her hours of makeup application. Blanche and Mitch’s doomed romance poignantly unfolds, as the needy duo show sides to their personality that they both wish existed. When Mitch learns of Blanche’s experienced sexuality, his cruel verbal abuse is almost as shocking as Stanley’s inevitable rape. And, that rape, as coarse and crude as dogs in the street, drew loud gasps from the audience, which had become a Greek chorus to the flow of onstage action. The entire vibe of this production is as sharp as the splintery planks that build the staging. The unrequited neediness of each lead character seeps into the bottomless brutal well of this poverty-stricken French Quarter of 1952 New Orleans. An added visual dimension is dancer, Carmen de Lavallade, a sort of flower vendor, who dances some steps on the narrow front staging, as carnival parades pass by.

Stanley and Stella’s upstairs neighbors and landlords are Steve and Eunice (Matthew Saldivar and Amelia Campbell), who seem trapped in the headwinds of downstairs disharmony. Steve is one of the Stanley’s poker buddies, a group of human IED’s (improvised explosive devices), that’s fueled by liquor and sweat. Count Stovall and Rosa Evangelina Arredondo are the final scene’s doctor and nurse, and it appeared that even here, Blanche’s wiles might protect her in the dreaded asylum. The doctor hooked his elbow and grandly led Blanche offstage like a Southern belle, with the rejected nurse left to follow. Emily Mann directs in such a way to allow momentary improvisation and a feeling of loose rehearsals. One gets the impression that no two performances will be very much the same, although the script is all Tennessee Williams. Eugene Lee’s minimal, ragged set allows ricocheting dialogue and propulsive motion to be immediately absorbed by the viewer. Edward Pierce’s lighting brings the neon of nightclubs inside, through the smoky fog. And, Terence Blanchard’s resonant music erases a half century, since this play was first staged, making it a story of now, of a timeless human condition.

Nicole Ari Parker and Blair Underwood
in "Streetcar Named Desire"
Courtesy of Ken Howard

Daphne Rubin-Vega and Blair Underwood
in "Streetcar Named Desire"
Courtesy of Ken Howard

Blair Underwood, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Matthew Saldivar,
Wood Harris, Daphne Rubin-Vega
in "Streetcar Named Desire"
Courtesy of Ken Howard

Nicole Ari Parker in "Streetcar Named Desire"
Courtesy of Ken Howard

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at