Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Streetcar Named Desire
Role Players Ensemble are currently presenting a powerful production of the Tennessee Williams classic A Streetcar Named Desire, one of the great American plays of the 20th century. It's a sizzling, naturalistic drama about sex, class and power, and the dialogue is an eloquent lyrical poem about placidness and beauty against a world that mistreats them.
Streetcar goes a long way back for me, starting after I got discharged from the Army Signal Corps at Ft. Dix. One of my first trips as a civilian was going to New York to see Marlon Brando play Stanley Kowalski to Jessica Tandy's Blanche DuBois. Later, one of my jobs at Warners after transferring from Republic Studios was to be one of cinematographer Harry Stradling's photographers on the Streetcar film where I got to take photos of Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh. Since that time I have seen many productions in the U.K., Los Angeles, and here in the Bay Area. I say without hesitation that the Role Players production under the superb direction of George Maguire is one of the best I have seen, thanks to a brilliant cast.
Melanie Dupuy gives a compelling performance as Blanche DuBois. She first plays the role like a Southern aristocrat who uses lies and fantasy to cope in the real world. She captures the fragile spirit of the character, especially in the second act when she talks about her early love affair in Mississippi. Dupuy is wonderful flirting with the newspaper boy. The last scene when she goes completely from neuroses to psychos is fantastic.
And Rob August as Stanley Kowalski? What a performancehe is Stanley Kowalski, one of the best I have seen. He does not channel Marlon Brando, thank God. His speech is a mixture of New Orleans slang, and his projection is amazing. He captures the violence of the young Pole and his last scenes with Dupuy as Blanche are breathtaking.
Samantha Behr is convincing as wife Stella, the calm eye in the middle of the progressively furious storm that is fermenting between Blanche and Stanley. She is down to earth and lighthearted one minute and self-reproaching the next. In her closing scene when she says "What have I done to my sister?" you feel her pain.
Tim Holt Jones is terrific as Mitch, Blanche's frantic suitor. The scenes in the second act between him and Dupuy are marvelously accomplished. There is a real chemistry between them. The scenes in the third act when Mitch discovers that Blanche is not the angel he wanted to bring home to his mother are stark and breathtaking.
Konnor Heredia is very good in his brief scene as the Evening Star collector. He brings out the total innocence of the young boy against the lasciviousness of his encounter with Blanche. Kim Doppe, Tina Rutsch, Randy Anger, Cesar Reyes, Justin Hernandez, and Kyle Goodman who play various roles give first rate performances.
Michael R. Cook has devised an excellent set that has a detailed, somewhat rundown living room, kitchen, and bedroom that is very claustrophobic. Costumes by Lisa Danz are in line with 1947 New Orleans, especially the lovey light dress apparel of Blanche.
Director George Maguire, a Tennessee Williams purist, has maintained all of the dialogue. He has also devised something of his own to add to the enjoyment of the 35-minute second act when Blanche has her first meeting with Mitch. Randy Anger, with his golden vocal chops, comes strolling out on the floor of the theatre in front of the stage singing "You Are My Lucky Star." He ends the second act on the other side of the floor singing "I'll Be Seeing You."
A Streetcar Named Desire is part of the Eugene O'Neill Festival in Danville, which runs through October 4 and includes a production of Desire Under the Elms. A Streetcar Named Desire will have its last performance on September 19, 2015, at the Village Theatre in Danville. For a lineup of upcoming productions of the Role Players please go to www.roleplayersensemble.com/.