Theatre Northwest opened its brand new production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Oct. 9, and it was a performance to remember. Staged in the intimate environs of Theater on the Square, the troupe at Theatre Northwest has produced a really intense play with this offering. I mean really intense. There was a lot of yelling - other than the signature “STELLA!!!” moment - and domestic violence, and the story does not end on the typical “everything got conveniently solved and they all lived happily ever after” note. But with all the necessary conflict, I enjoyed the show very much. This is definitely a play lovers of the movie and/or story will not want to miss.
Theatre Northwest’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” is directed by Rod Pilloud with music composed by Allan Louks, and stars Connie Murray as Blanche DuBois, Shawn Law as Stanley Kowalski, Emilie Rommel Shimkus as Stella Kowalski and John Murray as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell. Written by American playwright Tennessee Williams, the play is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans during the years following World War II. This is the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman on a desperate search for someplace in the world to call her own. She turns to her sister Stella, but Stella’s husband Stanley is suspicious of Blanche’s abrupt arrival. The two quickly form a volatile rivalry and Stella increasingly finds herself torn between the two with Stanley’s temper and Blanche’s past threatening to tear their relationships apart. If I were a psychologist, I would have a field day with these characters. Between Blanche’s neuroses, her brother-in-law Stanley’s anger management problems, and Stella’s accommodating ways and violent relationship with Stanley, no wonder these people have issues.
As Stanley, Law reminded me of Marlon Brando in the classic film version of the play. He was bold and brash, the man of the house type character, brutish in his mannerisms and beliefs, and he even carried himself like Brando. It is probably difficult taking on such a pivotal role synonymous with a legendary actor, yet Law pulled it off beautifully and seamlessly. On the other side of the spectrum, the character Blanche was completely over-the-top with her neuroses. I loved how she portrayed herself as a frail, innocent, Southern belle, which ironically was not a ruse (which was Stanley’s position on the issue) because she honestly believed who she was, or rather became, in her mind. I began to feel sorry for her because her condition happened after a tragic event when she was younger and to cope with it, she shut herself off by living vicariously through illusions and men. Murray did a wonderful job as Blanche. She made every aspect of the character believable. She convinced me Blanche was the stereotypical self-deluded Southern belle, but who also had a serious neurological problem she could not escape.
The other thing I really loved was the general atmosphere and flow of the play. The play only takes place in and around a two-story building, and the set was definitely reminiscent of some rundown neighborhood in New Orleans. What also set the atmosphere was sax player Darren Struthers, who played during the opening of the play and could be faintly heard in the background in some scenes, and the other background noises and the random characters walking around throughout the play. The ensemble cast really acted like this was a real community ranging from missionaries to local hookers. And lastly, we cannot forget Sparkle the dog, who had her debut performance playing a neighborhood boy’s loving pet.
The performance lasts almost three hours and has adult themes. It is not suitable for children, youngest audience age would be mature teen, so no babes in arms are allowed. The play runs through Oct. 24. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. every weekend, with the only Sunday matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Oct. 25. Ticket prices are $29-$39. Theater on the Square is wheelchair accessible, and it is recommended that all accessible seating be requested at the time of ticket purchase.
Theatre on the Square is located at 901 Broadway in downtown Tacoma (adjacent to the Pantages). Business hours are Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday noon-4 p.m. For more information or to order tickets, call (253) 591-5890 or visit www.broadwaycenter.org.