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A Streetcar Named Desire

- Backstage with the Playwrights

A Streetcar Named Desire
By Tennessee Williams
(Tennessee Williams Bio)

Presented by
Roundabout Theatre Company

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Ellen Richard, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director, External Affairs
Studio 54
54 West 54th Street

Natasha Richardson as Blanche DuBois
John C. Reilly as Stanley Kowalski
Amy Ryan as Stella Kowalski
Chris Bauer as Harold Mitchell
Wanda L. Houston as A Negro Woman
Kristine Nielsen as Eunice Hubbell
Scott Sowers as Steve Hubbell
Frank Pando as Pablo Gonzales
Will Toale as A Young Collector
Teresa Yenque as A Mexican Woman
John Carter as A Doctor
Barbara Sims as A Nurse
John Carter, Will Toale, Teresa Yenque, Alfredo Narciso,
Starla Benford, and Frank Pando as Street People

Directed by Edward Hall
Scenic Design: Robert Brill
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Original Music and Sound Design: John Gromada
Hair and Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Production Stage Manager: Jane Grey
Dialect Coach: Deborah Hecht
Fight Direction: Rick Sordelet
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Marketing: David B. Steffen
Associate Director: Barbara Rubin
Technical Supervisor: Steve Beers
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
General Manager: Sydney Beers
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 29, 2005

The very crowded and newly appointed Studio 54 was quite a propos tonight for the steamy 1947 New Orleans ambiance, originally envisioned by Tennessee Williams and now artistically re-created by the Roundabout Theatre Company and Director, Edward Hall. From the downtrodden women who sing in spiritual and mournful tones, as they traverse the multi-leveled darkness of the night, to the dysfunctional Kowalskis, Stella and Stanley, who crave violence for seduction amidst primordial screams, Roundabout and Edward Hall present the nuances and metaphors of A Streetcar Named Desire with fascination and ferocity.

Natasha Richardson as Blanche DuBois, Stella’s nymph of a sister, a master of defense mechanisms, who denies and represses to bury the pain: the pain of death, the pain of aging, the pain of destitution, the pain of loneliness, the pain of shame, and the pain of guilt, performs with power, persuasion, and passion. John C. Reilly as Stanley Kowalski, Blanche’s coarse and brutish brother-in-law, exudes passion through outsized physicality and seeks comfort in male bonding rituals, like card games and heavy drinking, wife abuse and crass language. Amy Ryan, who has performed more than one Stella Kowalski, shows virtue and vulnerability, desire and devotion, and her own favorite defenses, as she absorbs brutality, even when pregnant, in an enabling of her husband’s voracious and violent appetites.

Chris Bauer, as Mitch (Stanley’s longtime buddy), seems torn between two personas, an innocent, mamma’s boy and an intolerant, macho predator. The relationship between Mitch and Blanche, begun with Blanche’s need to prove that her seductive strengths still exist en force (to the extent of trapping a newsboy in her bedroom), is one fraught with female deception and male fantasy, as well as Blanche’s leap of faith in disclosing her hidden self and Mitch’s rejection of that reality as inferior to his broken dream. In fact, speaking of broken dreams, Blanche had once had it all, comfort and convenience, luxury and love. Ms. Richardson seethes with anxiety, just beneath the surface, just enough for the audience to share, in communal grief. She blankets the anxiety with self-conscious pride and seasoned survival skills that allow us to momentarily delude ourselves that maybe this one time the doctor won’t come knocking at the door.

But, thanks to Stanley’s need to reclaim his wife and tiny apartment, i.e., his control, his space, his world, we expect the inevitable. Ms. Richardson, as Blanche, covers herself in a long blue, hooded cloak and once again re-establishes her pride, her self-protection, her social class, as she pretends the doctor is her long, lost lover, come to take her to paradise. Blanche’s nervous breakdown has no one cause. Mr. Reilly, as Stanley, is persuasive with devilish greed, fleshy opportunism, cruel callousness, and fear of failure. His sexual appetite equals that of Stella, Blanche, and Mitch, a very hot foursome in a very hot town. In fact, the upstairs neighbors light their own dysfunctional fires, as well.

Robert Brill’s staging concept brings street people through the aisles, and Donald Holder’s mostly dim lighting adds to the darkness of the metaphorical underworld. William Ivey Long’s costumes reveal the understated sensuality of Stella, the overstated style of Blanche, and the workingman’s attitude of Stanley, Mitch, and buddies. Kudos to Natasha Richardson, John C. Reilly, Amy Ryan, and Chris Bauer for their psychic and physical stamina each night in this almost three-hour production. Kudos to Tennessee Williams and Roundabout Theatre Company. (See a review of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie).

(l-r) Natasha Richardson (Blanche DuBois), Amy Ryan (Stella Kowalski)
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

(l-r) Natasha Richardson (Blanche DuBois), John C. Reilly (Stanley Kowalski)
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus

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