Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
A Streetcar Named DesireBoston Court Performing Arts Center
In this update of the original story, thirty-something Blanche (Paige) has arrived to stay with her sister Stella (Maya Lynne Robinson) in a current day working-class neighborhood of New Orleans. Blanche's refined Southern belle act gets on Stella's husband Stanley's (Desean Kevin Terry) nerves, and the two begin an escalating battle for control. Blanche sees a possibility for redemption and escape in a relationship with Stanley's friend Mitch (Luis Kelly-Duarte), but Stanley's need to destroy her gets in the way.
Paige delivers a vivid, detailed and affecting performance as Blanche, finding a nice balance as a character that is both deceptive and self-deceiving. She is terrific throughout, but her final moments, wherein Blanche's desperation fully reveals itself, are particularly powerful. Terry is convincingly resentful and scary as Stanley, but is somewhat less believable in the vulnerable moments. Robinson is curiously bland as Stella, seeming vaguely bemused most of the time. Kelly-Duarte, however, is quite good as Mitch, with the character's kindness and self-deprecation eventually torn away to show why Mitch fits in just fine with the brutish Stanley.
Director Michetti's major misstep is presuming that placing Williams' play in current times without actually changing the text of the play will work, because it doesn't. The character of Blanche was somewhat anachronistic in the forties, when this play was originally done, but in 2018 she's completely implausible. Other things, such as the attitude toward homosexuality and characters going to the corner drugstore to get a lemon Coke (are there corner drugstores that serve drinks anymore?), place the play squarely in the time it was written, and no amount of live DJs playing between scenes or people using cell phones can disguise it. Finally, reconceiving Stanley's rape of Blanche into a scene of torrid passion breaks the logic and tragedy of the play's conclusion, where the rape was originally the final trauma leading to Blanche's mental breakdown, which now happens somewhat inexplicably.
The good thing to report is that the play still works, even in this misguided production, and Jaimi Paige's performance is a thing of beauty.
A Streetcar Named Desire, through March 25, 2018, at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 N Mentor Ave, Pasadena CA. Tickets and information are available at www.BostonCourt.com.
Boston Court Performing Arts Center presents A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Michael Michetti. Lighting Designer, Rose Malone; Scenic Designer, Efren Delgadillo Jr.; Costume Designer, Dominique Fawn Hill; Sound Designer, Sam Sewell.