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A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams' timeless play shines yet again with powerful lead actors, colorful supporting players and inventive staging.

With:
Blanche - Ellen Geer
Stanley - Richard Tyson
Stella - Melora Marshall
Mitch - Tom Allard
Eunice - Ernestine Phillips
Steve - Fred Zelinka
Young man - Marc Saint-Pierre
Pablo - Mick Morentin
Nurse - Sandy Newlands
Doctor - Arthur Nissman
White Trash - Elizabeth George
Mexican Vedor - Marie Janisse

Tennessee Williams’ timeless play shines yet again with powerful lead actors, colorful supporting players and inventive staging.

The familiar story is of down-on-her-luck, refined Southern belle Blanche DuBois (Ellen Geer), who visits with her sister Stella (Melora Marshall) and Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski (Richard Tyson).

Because “Streetcar” is one of the best known, most studied and often parodied plays of this century, it is difficult to see it with a fresh point of view. But this production brings new insights to the story, especially how marital violence is an accepted part of daily living for some people.

The actors bring new texture to the characters. Geer as Blanche is immediately believable rather than theatrical, with a sultry quality. Her Blanche is likable, sympathetic and not wistful. Contrasting and complementing her is Marshall’s Stella, usually a complacent character, but played here with an inner strength. She’s a rock of stability, keeping her family together, while being intoxicated by her husband’s sexual intensity.

Tyson has a tough task making audiences forget Marlon Brando’s Kowalski. Tyson brings a focused volatility and raw sexuality to the role of a muscular, “unrefined type.” But in the second act his performance weakens with too many cartoonish gestures and apelike actions.

Supporting players Tom Allard and Ernestine Phillips add warm, novel touches to the characters.

Director Heidi Davis has used the outdoor theater space well, creating a whole neighborhood around the small shabby apartment.

The three-act play is presented with one intermission, combining the first and second acts. After intermission, Davis’ blocking weakens slightly and certain scenes are not clearly viewed by some audience members.

Set designer John Marzilli has set the scene for squalor most engagingly. Costume designer Bernie White has delightfully created clothes for Blanche from a bygone era.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon; 99 seats; $ 12 top

Production: The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum presents a drama, performed in two acts, by Tennessee Williams; producer, Kathy Schutzer; director, Heidi Davis.

Creative: Set design, John Marzilli; lighting, Eileen Cooley; costumes, Bernie White. Opened July 3, 1993; reviewed July 4; runs though Aug. 29.

Cast: Blanche - Ellen Geer
Stanley - Richard Tyson
Stella - Melora Marshall
Mitch - Tom Allard
Eunice - Ernestine Phillips
Steve - Fred Zelinka
Young man - Marc Saint-Pierre
Pablo - Mick Morentin
Nurse - Sandy Newlands
Doctor - Arthur Nissman
White Trash - Elizabeth George
Mexican Vedor - Marie Janisse

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