HET scores again.
No conductor rings a bell. But when the curtain goes up, “Streetcar” starts down a set of tracks you won’t soon forget.
The trolley ride is through life lived during the summer months in the French Quarter, New Orleans after World War II. The life is seamy, steamy; cross fired by relief-, if not pleasure-seeking urges coming from people living day by day who have very little and only limited prospects. It is also the life that college-educated and once genteel but now over-the-hill alcoholic, Blanche Dubois, steps into.
With consequences that for upwards of three hours, keep you completely absorbed.
Balnche (Sabrina Prielaida) shows up on her married sister’s doorstep, jobless, penniless, unexpected. Hat in hand, she offers her sister nothing but worn-out memories of their growing up in the lap of luxury on a plantation which was even then, sowing the seeds of an Old South long since pronounced dead. They are memories that Blanche won’t let go of and drinks herself numb to stay in touch with.
With Blanche’s delusions, her sister, Stella (Allison Schumacher), takes no umbrage. Stella, for some time, has made peace with her past and moved on. She is married, pregnant, living life on terms of her own making that she accepts. The terms are oftentimes brutal, always basic. But as she says, “Things happen in the dark that make other things seem unimportant.”
Stella’s husband, Stanley (Garth Ink), however, is another kettle of fish altogether.
Stanley is a rude, loud, violent, beer-drinking, wife-mistreating, combat vet. He and Blanche butt heads from the get-go but not all out. Stanley fumes, smolders, gives not an inch but confines himself to snide remarks. Blanche, on the other hand, with the cool and calm of a female cat who knows just how to get the goat of the male of the species, flaunts her education, breeding, background and Stanley’s lack thereof. The game between them is cat and mouse, played on a dangerous level, with the threat of violence always present, always mounting. The suspense is excruciating.
This marvelous acting trio –Schumacher, Prielaida and Ink – create a kind of tightening, interlocking, vise-effect that keeps you wondering what is next if you never saw “Streetcar” and that you can’t wait to see again if you have.
Of the three, however, let it be said, Schumacher does things with Williams’ lofty use of the language that are all her own. There is an empty, hollow, anything but vibrant, living ring to her ramblings on about the faded-out glory of the Old South. Yet, in spontaneous exchange with Stanley, her language takes your breath away. It and she are funny, sarcastic, pathetic and each in their own way, cutting to Stanley’s quick and to the heart of all that is rotten in this Denmark.
Along with the rest of a very fine supporting cast, Harold “Mitch” Miller provides some enhancing soft, gentle and even deliberately cruel moments. “Mitch” plays Stanley’s best friend and Blanche’s suitor.
Under the direction of notable Glenn F. Haines, this is a Pulitzer Prize winner shown to great advantage. Acting, sound effects including jazz and blues of the era; superb. Gripping all the way.
Just the thing if you long for, not often available true tragedy American-style.