Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tennessee Williams Festival 2012: "A Streetcar Named Desire"

I attended two performances of "A Streetcar Named Desire" in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams Festival, although not exactly during the festival.

The first was an outdoor screening of the 1951 film starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando in the sculpture garden next to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. This film has the most effective rape scene in film history (in my opinion). You don't see a rape - it's only suggested. But you see the intention on Marlon Brando's face, you see his determined leap toward Vivien Leigh, and you see the mirror shatter (which I had remembered as the whole screen shattering, but it's actually the mirror that shatters). This shows that it's often better to suggest than to portray graphically.

The second was a performance of the play at the Michalopoulos Studio on Elysian Fields, the temporary home of Southern Rep. The performance was preceded with a walking tour of the neighborhood, which would actually have been the Kowalskis' neighborhood. The Kowalskis' address, 632 Elysian Fields, is right across form Michalopoulos - so we saw where Stanley and Stella Kowalski would have lived, as well as where they would have bought groceries, where they would have gotten their liquor, where Stanley would have worked, where Blanche would have gotten off the streetcar. This walking tour was conducted by the dramaturge for the play.

The play was excellent. Starring were Aimée Hayes as Blanche, Ashley Ricord as Stella, Michael Aaron Santos as Stanley, and Mike Harkins as Mitch. Aimée Hayes was especially wonderful as Blanche. She gave a very emotionally intense performance. In fact, it is hard for me to imagine how long it must take her to come down from that emotional high after the play - or, one might say, how long it must take her to resurface from that emotional low.

The theater experience included vendors dressed in period costume selling flowers and pralines!

The play runs through April 15, 2012.

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