In A Streetcar Named Desire, thrilling theatre at its very best, one experiences vicariously a whole encyclopedia of feelings–desire, sexuality, secrecy, resentment, envy, disdain, yearning and more. The brilliantly loaded script in the hands of consummate stage artists, as is the case in this production now playing at the Odyssey Theatre, makes an audience lean forward to catch all the powerful passion as the sense of time disappears.
Director Jack Heller holds the reins on the often-explosive dynamics of the play, guiding the players with finesse to many moments that are searing or wistful or intimidating. Blanche DuBois (magnetic, ethereal Susan Priver), a vain, desperate, fading beauty, descends on her sister, Stella Kowalski (Melissa Sullivan, the emotional heart of the play) and her brooding, brutish husband Stanley (the mercurial Max E. Williams). Stella’s passion for her husband, rooted in primal sexuality, is touching, and, in some moments, scary. Stanley’s dynamics approach the limits of chaotic unpredictability. Stanley’s friend, lonely, yearning Mitch (Christopher Parker), sparks with needy, secretive Blanche, who lures Mitch with desperate feminine wiles. In their two-room apartment, a stew of emotions boils out of control.
But the Kowalski’s are not the only ones in emotional upheaval in the New Orleans neighborhood ironically called Elysian Fields. The upstairs landlords, Eunice (Caroline Simone O’Brien) and Steve (Alejandro Bravo), have their own knock-down-drag-out fits of violence. And the card games that Stanley holds on the kitchen table with Mitch, Steve, and Pablo (Juan Sucre) are fraught with arguments and banter, not always friendly.
Rounding out the cast are Sean Rose as the newsboy, and the old woman (Nadejda Klein) crying out, “Flores, flores por los muertos.” And, in the last moments, it always gets me when Blanche goes out on the arm of the Doctor (Kevin Ragsdale) saying, “…I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
A Streetcar Named Desire is handsomely mounted with a terrific scenic design by Joel Daavid, with lighting by Derrick McDaniel. The sound design by Chrisropher Moscatiello is superb and I really appreciate the incidental music featuring a lonely wistful trumpet, and other moody jazz pieces. The costume design by Shon LeBlanc is perfect for period, character, and action. The prop master is Shen Heckel and graphic design is by Doug Haverty. Fight choreography is by Matt Franta and choreography is by Cate Caplin. The assistant director is Sean Rose, the production stage manager is Sarah Dawn Lowry, and Dance On Productions produces in association with Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger.
An Odyssey Theatre visiting production, A Streetcar Named Desire runs through July 7 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles.