Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire (The SOB Review)

A Streetcar Named Desire (The SOB Review) - 325 Tudor Court Theatre, Writers' Theatre, Glencoe, Illinois

**** (out of ****)

Genius. Pure, unequivocal genius.

In an absolutely enthralling yet haunting revival of Tennesee Williams' 63-year old A Streetcar Named Desire, director David Cromer has done it again.

Once again, as in his Our Town and Brighton Beach Memoirs, Cromer has carefully pulled back the cover on what we know about an enduring stage classic. In doing so, he's expertly pinpointed its deepest emotional core with exacting precision. The revelations, even for someone who's seen the work countless times before, are at once astounding and exhilarating.

As with those two other works, he has shrewdly reassembled this masterpiece to perfection. The result here is A Streetcar that ingeniously illuminates Blanche duBois' desires and repulsions, often at the very same moment. It is a rare production that sends chills tingling through my body once, let alone in spades the way this exciting revival has done. I had goosebumps from near the top of the second act right through its heartwrenching conclusion.

Cromer's vision in mounting this work is aided tremendously by the incredibly intimate Writers' Theatre space itself, with audience completely encircling the stage, which Collette Pollard has marvelously designed to evoke the smallish New Orleans home of Stanley (a magnificent Matt Hawkins) and Stella Kowalski (a stellar Stacy Stoltz). While fellow patrons for this theatrical event sit opposite you across the stage, they merely blend into the Kowalskis' invisible wallpaper as it becomes nearly impossible to take your eyes away from the acting brilliance unfolding before your eyes.

In fact, if this Streetcar were any more accessible, the audience would be sitting in the Kowalskis' two-story home with the cast. Never before has this play seemed more genuine or real. And there's not a weak member to be found among this outstanding ensemble.

Natasha Lowe provides the ultimate incandescent performance as Blanche, whose past hangs more vividly than a specter over her pretense. In Lowe, nuance knows no bounds as her Blanche completely captivates, particularly when disclosing to her potential paramour Mitch (the gentle, affecting Danny McCarthy) how her last real relationship abruptly came to its end (bravo here to Heather Gilbert for her subtle and masterful lighting design). It's the first of many harrowing discoveries that took my breath away as no other previous revival I've seen.

Speaking of nuance, Hawkins and Stoltz add significant shades of depth to Stanley and Stella, respectively. Hawkins' electrifying performance humanizes Stanley to the point where you reconsider everything you've ever thought about his boorish behavior. As Stella, Stoltz more than holds her own, becoming more than just a mere pawn in the battle between her husband and sister.

If there's such a thing as beyond excellent, this A Streetcar Named Desire is it. Do whatever you can to get to Glencoe, Illinois, prior to July 11 to see this classic as you've never seen it before.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 03 June, 2010, Blogger Ozzie Totten said...

The most fascinating part of this show, for me, is that Hawkins and Stolz are married. Awesome.

At 03 June, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ozzie, I just learned that yesterday. Pretty amazing, isn't it?!


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