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Firehouse Theatre Project A Streetcar Named Desire

By • Apr 21st, 2014 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
A Streetcar Named Desire
Firehouse Theatre Project: (Info) (Web)
Firehouse Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through May 17th
3:05, with intermission
$35/$29 Senior/$16 Student, RAPT, Military
Reviewed April 19th, 2014

A director has many important choices to make, especially when taking on a classic play like A Streetcar Named Desire. It is hard to be innovative and different without being over the top and campy. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates utilizes many such innovative approaches in the Firehouse Theatre’s current production with mixed results.

In Streetcar, Blanche Dubois (Bianca Bryan) is a fading Southern Belle who is losing her charm as well as her family’s estate in Mississippi and her sanity. She is forced to stay with her sister Stella (Lauren Marie Hafner) and her husband Stanley Kowalski (Joseph Carlson) who she has never met, in their small two-room (actually one room divided with a curtain) New Orleans apartment. Stella and Stanley are Blanche’s polar opposites. Stella is down to earth and laid back as compared to Blanche’s histrionics. Stanley is simple, common, primitive and low-class.

The play is a study of man’s ability to inflict deliberate cruelty on one another. Tennessee Williams made a career of creating strong, yet fragile and unbalanced women.

Much of the strength of a production of Streetcar rests on the shoulders of the three principal characters and their interpersonal conflict. While Carlson is powerful, raw and believable as Stanley, Bryan tends to create more of a caricature than a character. Her Blanche is a bit of Blanche from “Golden Girls,” Eunice from “Mama’s Family” and Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard.” Her strongest scenes are those with Carlson, where her nervous energy seems more realistic. Carlson and Hafner also create emotional and sexual sparks in the volatile chemistry between Stanley and Stella.

Going back to directorial choices; a live jazz band in the off-stage lobby area and vocals by Margarette Joyner are a nice New Orleans touch in Act 2 that are for some reason not used in Act 1. Joyner’s vocals are a show stopper. Joey Luck’s original music works well.

Scene changes and sometimes background scenes are done in drawn out slow motion that starts out innovative, but due to overuse becomes distracting. By the second act, they make the three-hour show seem even longer. The final scene change contained what seemed like an eternity of watching the upstairs neighbor come in and sweep the floor.

Likewise, the back wall of the apartment is a projection screen, with often grainy black and white street scenes that seemed out-of-place, contrived and distracting. One final issue comes with the use of accents and dialects that under Dialect Coach Janet Rodgers vary from traditional southern to Bostonian to unidentifiable to Forrest Gump-ish.

On the more positive side, Edwin Slipek’s set is elaborate, intricate and well designed for the Firehouse’s small stage. It effectively portrays the tight quarters that create a hot and volatile setting. Andrew Bonniwell’s light design helps set the mood and focus the action. Devario Simmons’ costumes fit the period and help establish and develop the characters, although some of the men’s costumes seemed a bit ill-fitting.

Overall, Firehouse Theatre’s A Streetcar Named Desire makes for an interesting character study with a mixed bag of innovative touches and some strong performances.

Do be advised there is strong sexual content, live cigarette smoke and a couple of loud gun shots.

The Cast

  • Blanche DuBois: Bianca Bryan
  • Stanley Kowalski: Joseph Carlson
  • Stella Kowalski: Lauren Marie Hafner
  • Harold Mitchell (Mitch): Charley Raintree
  • Eunice Hubbell: Anne Carr Regan
  • Steve Hubbell: Bill Brock
  • Maybell, Street Vendor, Jazz Singer, Nurse: Margarette Joyner
  • Percy Delacroix, Street Vendor: Jeremy Morris
  • Young Man, Doctor: Alexander Gerber

The Crew

  • Director: Tawnya Pettiford-Wates
  • Assistant Director: Brandon Rashad Butts
  • Stage Manager: Sharon Gregory
  • Production Manager: Annie Colpitts
  • Set Designer: Edwin Slipek
  • Lighting Design: Andrew Bonniwell
  • Costume Design: Devario Simmons
  • Sound Design/ Technical Director and Original Music: Joey Luck
  • Projections Design: Nathan Wunderlich
  • Assistant Set Designer/ Master Carpenter: Joshua Bennett
  • Assistant Costume Designer: Casey Jones
  • Props Master: Katherine Wright
  • Dialect Coach: Janet Rodgers
  • Light Board Operator: Tessa Hoerst
  • Music Director: Andrienne Wilson

The Band:

  • Saxophone: Trey Sorrells
  • Bass: Justin Esposito
  • Percussion: Joe Lubman

Disclaimer: Firehouse Theatre Project provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/10062.

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