Monday, December 14, 2009

A Streetcar Named Desire (SOB Review)

A Streetcar Named Desire (The SOB Review) - Harvey Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

The hottest ticket in New York right now is for a little show over in Brooklyn. And with good reason.

Director (and onetime actress) Liv Ullmann is mounting a crackling revival of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. By that, I mean one that expertly finds each of the fissures and cracks in Blanche DuBois, arguably Williams' most artfully drawn character.

The revival becomes a must-see event not only because it stars the magnificent Cate Blanchett, indisputably one of the world's greatest living actresses, but also because it so forthrightly showcases this classic work for what it is -- one of the best plays ever written.

As Blanche DuBois, the superbly luminescent Blanchett leads a strong cast that includes fellow Sydney Theatre Company ensemble members Joel Edgerton as her menacing brother-in-law Stanley, and Robin McLeavy as Blanche's doormat of a sister Stella.

But at its center, this play is all about that unbalanced woman in the middle named Blanche, and Blanchett offers a remarkably balanced portrayal that evenly teeters from one extreme to the other. Unafraid to embrace Blanche's sensually needy side, Blanchett demonstrates that there's still plenty of red left in this faded rose. Yet the thorns are also very evident.

There's a reason why New Yorkers are using every conceivable mode of transportation to witness this Streetcar. Ullmann's import from the Sydney Theatre Company makes Williams' work both fresh and vital. No wonder there are the beginnings of a clang, clang, clang to bring this to Broadway. Whether Brooklyn remains its final stop remains to be seen.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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