A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 play written by the iconic American playwright Tennessee Williams. The play opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the following year. The original cast starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. Can you imagine? I can’t, but I can imagine that every theatre person in the world has screamed “STELLA!!!!!” at some point in their life. I know I have, several times, several years apart, thank you.
The story involves Blanche DuBois (Katie Simon Atkinson) who is a fading, though still attractive woman, clinging to her youth. Blanche arrives to visit her sister, Stella Kowalski (Nicole McLaughlin), and on her way takes a streetcar named “Desire.” Stella welcomes her sister, but with reservations about how her husband Stanley (Ron Young) will react. Blanche, meanwhile, is hiding secrets from her recent past that have driven her to visit and try to recoup. As it would any sister, the volatile relationship between Stella and Stanley becomes an issue for Blanche and sets up an epic battle. The results are devastating, and leave us with one of the most famous exit lines in theatrical history.
Watching a community theatre perform this play could easily turn out to be dreadful. Luckily, Director Jenna Messina cast the show with able actors who are not intimidated by the classic script and characters. Though there are some distracting elements, I left the production feeling content that the evening was a positive experience. Taking on a classic is never easy, but Messina seems fearless, and provides great guidance along the way.
McLaughlin and Young are strong in their respective roles as Stella and Stanley. McLaughlin has a tremendous strength on stage, as well as an attractive manner. She handled the emotional ride of this piece with great understanding, and conveyed the powerful journey that family can invoke and force us to face. She let us inside as she handled the volatile undertakings she was forced to address. Young countered with a persona that was spot on for Stanley. He transformed himself into a beer drinking, bowling smoker who has a problem with his temper. It wasn’t overdone or underplayed. I thought there was a great balance, so you could see his faults clearly, but also that he truly was in love with Stella, but wasn’t the best in showing it. Kind of like a big dog that loves you to death, but sometimes, has an accident.
The centerpiece role is Blanche. Atkinson is a smart actor. She handles the iconic role with great courage, strength and psychotic agility. She consistently held Blanche on the edge, having us feel that something was probably wrong, but not letting on and keeping that tension throughout. She looked great and handled the proceedings like a pro.
The rest of the cast, Chris Bizub (Steve Hubbell), Jazmine Danner (Negro Woman), Nathan Erleigh (Young Collector), Jena Gross (Prostitute), Chris Herak (Doctor), Amanda Magpoc (Mexican Woman), Brandon Soeder Penner (Pablo Gonzalez) were solid, with two actors rising to the top. First, Lou Petrucci (Harold Mitchell) was terrific as the suitor who has to deal with some harsh realities in his quest for Blanche’s hand. And adding some much needed humor is Patricia Walocko as Eunice Hubbell. This is a woman you want to have a shot and a beer with, and hit the alleys. Great job.
There were some distractions for me. There didn’t seem much room between the kitchen table and the exit door, causing some awkward traffic patterns. The scene changes had too much light on them, thereby causing scene endings to be hard to determine at times, as well as causing a delay in applause because the audience was still watching movement. Such as an actor coming right through the same bedroom door in a white shirt a second after the main character left. The placement of the balloons was also problematic. On house left, they blocked Stella many times and then cast shadows on her as she sat at the table. And the Mexican woman selling flowers and what sounded like Coronas, along with her bells, seemed to greatly overshadow the scene on stage.
Aside from those personal reflections, I was proud of Messina and company. This is a solid show that will only grow and become more powerful as it continues, as any good show does.
The technical elements were very good. As costumer, Messina nailed it. Stage Manager James Carrick called a great show. Set and Sound designer Ken Slaughter should be very proud. The set looked great. Solid lighting design by Jeremiah Landi. Sue Overton, Joe Jarrell, and Joellen Woodring rounded out with great results.
Congrats to the cast. I will proceed to scream STELLA! on the treadmill at Planet Fitness today in your honor; hopefully, not setting off the Lunk Alarm.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
April 11 – April 27
No Show Easter Sunday (April 20)
$14-$15 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
6200 Pearl Road
Parma Heights, OH 44130