For those who missed “Moose Murders” and “Carrie” on Broadway, there is now “A Streetcar Named Desire” at New York Theater Workshop. Ivo van Hove’s production of Tennessee Williams’ classic about the doomed Blanche DuBois is not only told from the point of view of her nemesis, brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski , it appears to have been directed by him as well.
What other productions leave offstage, van Hove focuses on obsessively, to the point that the play should be renamed “A Bathtub Named Desire.” Blanche (Elizabeth Marvel) is often seen bathing. Stanley (Bruce McKenzie) and wife Stella (Jenny Bacon) have sex in the tub. The upstairs-neighbor Eunice (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) nearly drowns Stanley in it. And when Stanley presents Blanche with her birthday present of a one-way ticket back to Laurel, Miss., she dives head-first fully clothed into the tub and remains fully submerged.
Eventually, like something from the Black Lagoon, Blanche rises up to beach herself on the stage floor, where beau Mitch (Christopher Evan Welch) soon tries to rape her from behind. Earlier, in act one, the sweet young collector (Justin Klosky) from the Evening Star also tries to mount poor Blanche.
In a rare moment of discretion, Stanley does not rape Blanche. Naked, with Spandex — not silk! — pajamas knotted awkwardly around his ankles, he spouts the immortal “This is a date we’ve had from the beginning,” and just plops her back in the water, at which point a tsunami hits the bathroom and tidal waves wrack Blanche’s body.
Marvel literally throws herself into this one, but ultimately that survivalist spirit falters. Welch brings an edge of creepiness to Mitch; his talk of the gym and physical fitness is especially chilling, and soon it’s clear marriage to him would solve nothing for Blanche.
As for McKenzie and Bacon, it is truly a perverse interpretation when Stella out-rants and out-stomps Stanley. McKenzie, though, does get his moment: In act one, when Blanche breaks up the poker game by inviting everyone in for a little disco inferno, Stanley retaliates by breaking out his electric guitar and doing his Jimi Hendrix thing. Who knew Stanley had a garage band?