By: Walter Ruff
James Lee Burke wrote: “New Orleans isn’t a city. It’s a Petrarchan sonnet. There’s no other place on the planet like it. I think it was sawed loose from South America and blown by trade winds across the Caribbean until it affixed itself to the southern rim of the United States. Every antithetical element in the New and Old Worlds somehow found a home in New Orleans. For a writer, the city was a gift from God.”
While I am not so sure I would label Keegan’s mounting of A Streetcar Named Desire a gift from God it is the closest thing to Jax Beer and Po Boy sandwiches in DC. Blanche, Stella and Stanley come alive at Church Street, you can feel the sweat, hear the jazz horns and feel the tension in the back of your neck just as if you knew these depressing and angry but colorful characters created by Tennessee Williams. Heartbreak and desire usually go well together and as you well know this oft-produced play has plenty of both.
Kerry Waters as Blanche is truly amazing! Blanche is the pretentious southern school teacher, full of repressed sexuality and an obviously fragile mental state. After losing her teaching position because of an licentious affair she moves in with Stella and Stanley. Stanley (Mark Rhea) is full of rage and anger at his place in life and is threatened by Blanche’s arrival. Mr. Rhea attacks the part like he wants to beat it to a pulp with bare fists. Stella is the caring sister, nicely acted by Susan Marie Rhea, she is the strong and understanding sister, yet drawn to Stanley for reasons that even she cannot understand. After Blanche’s arrival, Stanley and Blanche mount a rickety roller coaster ride to destruction that has no stops until the final destination. The rest of the cast does a fine job — Eric Lucas as Mitch gives a strong performance as the sensitive former army buddy devoted to his dying mother.
The set design by George Lucas brought the seedy French Quarter into Dupont Circle, Tony Angelini and Matt Rippetoe fill Church Street Theatre with the sounds of Bourbon Street and Shadia A Hafiz designed the costumes from Stella’s beautiful dresses to Stanley’s grease stained athletic tee shirts. Overall the technical aspects of the show were without fault.
It has been said that Tennessee Williams invented the idea of desire for the 20th century — If you desire an evening of quality theatre by one of the most respected theatre companies in the area, Keegan’s mounting of A Streetcar Named Desire should be on your short list.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Eric Lucas and Mark A. Rhea