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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
at St. Ann’s Warehouse

MOTION SICKNESS
By MATT WINDMAN

  Ben Foster and Gillian Anderson/ Ph: Teddy Wolff

Countless academics, critics and professionals have written about Tennessee Williams’ masterful drama A Streetcar Named Desire since its 1947 Broadway debut. But up until now, I’m willing to bet no one has ever proposed that the set should never stop spinning. In all seriousness, would any show benefit from that kind of setup? Even Les Miz knew when to turn off its iconic turntable.
 
Benedict Andrews’ sleek in-the-round staging of Streetcar starring Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Ben Foster (The Program, The Orphans on Broadway), which is set in the present day and take places on a revolving platform that is almost always in motion, is now playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn after premiering at London’s Young Vic. The production was also screened in movie theaters as part of the NT Live series.
 
New York is no stranger to reconceived productions of classic American dramas. This season alone, Dutch director Ivo van Hove premiered experimental versions of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and The Crucible on Broadway.
 
The motion of the set reflects Blanche DuBois’ fragile and disoriented state of mind. It also permits an up-close, clinical view of the confined apartment where the play is set. With this setup, the characters have nowhere to hide from us. But it’s hard to endure the nonstop motion for three and a half hours. After a while, it comes off as an unnecessary gimmick with the potential to make you feel seasick. Audience members may find that their view is often obstructed, with the bedroom directly facing them while Stanley and Stella are in the kitchen area, on the opposite side of the platform. The nonstop background music also becomes distracting.
 
That aside, this is a great production. The play works unexpectedly well set in the present day and without the traditional Southern gothic look. The frequent altercations among family members bring to mind contemporary domestic abuse. The rape sequence is especially graphic and disturbing.
 
Anderson gives a wholly complete performance as Blanche that depicts the tragic character in all of her mental and emotional extremes. She arrives looking fashionable and authoritative, carrying luggage on rollers and bossing the neighbors around. You could imagine her shopping on Fifth Avenue. Of course, her disorientation and recklessness eventually takes hold. Foster’s Stanley, all tattooed and bulky, is appropriately imposing and rough. The vivacious and beautiful Vanessa Kirby makes an unusually strong impression as Blanche’s younger sister Stella, who is caught in between Blanche and Stanley. 

 


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