This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

30Apr/12

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

New STREETCAR pulls into Broadway lacking the necessary desire

Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Through July 22, $49.50 - $199
www.streetcaronbroadway.com

Tennessee Williams’s steamy Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, has had a long, storied history on Broadway and on film. Unfortunately, this latest production, directed by Emily Mann at the Broadhurst Theatre, is unlikely to add to that legacy. A buff Blair Underwood stars as Stanley (the usual last name of Kowalski is dispensed with here), a raw, brutish man married to Stella (the always dependable Daphne Rubin-Vega), who loves her husband despite his animalistic nature. When Stella’s sister, Blanche Du Bois (Nicole Ari Parker), arrives to stay with them in their small, ramshackle home in New Orleans’s Elysian Fields, things begin to get complicated as Blanche tells Stella that the family’s country home has been lost and it soon becomes apparent that Blanche is having trouble living in reality. Streetcar needs to be played with fierce passion and careful nuance, but Mann’s version feels flat and uninspired. The two main couples — Stanley and Stella, and Blanche and Mitch (Wood Harris) — lack chemistry, so the fire never ignites, even when Stanley ultimately grabs Blanche. Everything about the production is admirable, including Terence Blanchard’s score and Eugene Lee’s set, but there’s an overwhelming straightforwardness from which it can’t escape — and one that has nothing to do with comparisons to previous Streetcars, featuring such leading foursomes as Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden (1947), Aidan Quinn, Blythe Danner, Frances McDormand, and Frank Converse (1988), Alec Baldwin, Jessica Lange, Amy Madigan, and Timothy Carhart (1992), and John C. Reilly, Amy Ryan, Natasha Richardson, and Chris Bauer (2005). And the production’s primary conceit, that it is the first Broadway version to boast a multiracial cast, adds little to the proceedings.

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