Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stage West makes 'Streetcar' all its own

There's little argument that Tennessee Williams's 1947 drama A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the 20th century's greatest plays, arguably, THE greatest. And it's likely that most theatergoers have seen either a live or filmed production and have pretty strong opinions on how it should look and sound.

Knowing this, Stage West Community Playhouse is to be commended for bringing this stage classic to local audiences. And director Dalton Benson and his cast and crew deserve praise for tackling this challenging, near three-hour show with its iconic characters — and doing a surprisingly fine job of it, too.

Indeed, the joy of live theater is seeing new actors and directors put their spin on something so familiar and bringing out new or different facets of a character or situation that make the audience see something in a new light.

Such it is with the Stage West presentation of Streetcar. The story, characters and script are all there, but the look and feel seem fresh and new. Set in a cramped, seedy 1947 New Orleans apartment house, Streetcar is the story of the fading Mississippi belle Blanche DuBois (Angela Sarabia), who goes to live with her younger sister Stella (Susan Nichols) and Stella's coarse, loud husband Stanley Kowalski (Jay Ingle) after the DuBois family plantation where she had lived is lost to creditors.

Stanley taunts Blanche from the outset, and Blanche responds the only way she knows how, with sexually aggressive flirtation that only irritates Stella's insensitive, boorish, physically abusive husband. Stanley is determined to discredit Blanche and send her on her way as soon as possible, never mind that the woman has no place to go. And Stella, despite the bruises Stanley has inflicted on her, stands by her man.

The core of the drama is Blanche, and Ms. Sarabia's Blanche is her own — no simpering faux debutante, but a fidgety, flighty, chatty, aging woman, pulling at her long, curly hair as she fondles every man in sight, young, old and in between, hoping for love and help that never seem to come, but calm and often radiant as she poignantly recalls the tragedies and fantasies of her life.

Blanche has survived a disastrous marriage at age 16, the horrible death of her puzzling boy/husband; then, all alone, nursing a succession of old, dying relatives begging her to save them from the grave; trying to salvage the remains of a once-prosperous Mississippi plantation that has been ravaged by a succession of her male ancestors who piddled it off to support their lusts; and, of course, fighting her own special mental demons, signaled by sound designer Lynda Benson's tinkling music that was playing the night her husband died.

This role, and the Mississippi accent that goes with it, is a huge challenge for full-time professional actors with months to prepare, and Ms. Sarabia and director Benson are to be congratulated for the Blanche they have fashioned. The dense, complex script itself is challenge enough, but adding the mannerisms, facial expressions, postures and moves makes it even more so, and Ms. Sarabia does admirable work on all counts.

This is enhanced by Jay Ingle, who creates a convincing Stanley with his casual use of physical and vocal violence, seeming remorse, transparent greed, and uncaring ways. Like Ms. Sarabia, the lanky Ingle makes this Stanley his own, even during the often caricatured "Stella" scenes.

Ms. Nichols' Stella is also a pleasure to watch, making clear that the reason she left Blanche to fend for herself was not only after a lifetime of being Blanche's unpaid maid, but also because, like so many in that family, she is driven by her own lusts and desires. Ms. Nichols makes the most of languid moves when she's in charge, submissive ways when Stanley is there, and quick temper when enough is enough.

Sam McCall sends the right signals as Blanche's tentative suitor Mitch, gentle and understanding at first, but as judgmental as the rest when he discovers her "past." Rose DeAngelo's upstairs neighbor Eunice Hubbell creates a believable abused, but submissive wife to her philandering hubby, Steve, ably done by Scott Yoder. The Hubbells underscore the Kowalskis' marital and emotional arrangement. And supporting cast members Sheryl Depp as nurse; Patty Villegas as a street vendor; Louis Bermudez as Stanley's card-playing pal Pablo; Chris Hubner as the understanding doctor; and Brian Moran as the young, innocent newspaper boy flesh out the New Orleans scene and add punch to the creation of the other characters.

The whole production is enhanced by set designer Lynda Benson's detailed, authentic two-story New Orleans apartment house, with great use of scrim screens, crumbling walls and shutters, crowded furniture that makes the rooms seem stifling, and prop placement that brings every scene totally in view. Kudos, too, to set builder Sig Stock and his sizable crew, and to Bev O'Looney for costumes that amplify and intensify the actions of the characters.

.If you go

At Stage West

A Streetcar Named Desire, drama by Tennessee Williams in three acts, weekends through Jan. 22 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15, reserved seating. Call (352) 683-5113.

Stage West makes 'Streetcar' all its own 01/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 14, 2012 12:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  2. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  3. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion

    Fire

    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  4. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  5. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.