In a drunken moment of transparency, Blanche DuBois, Tennessee Williams’ troubled heroine of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” admits to her beau, Mitch, that she is not fond of the harsh light of reality.
“I don’t want realism. I want magic!” she exclaims, staring off into an ideal world that only she can see. “... I don’t tell the truth. I tell what ought to be the truth.”
Left to Right: ANDY SHOOK (Pablo), Chris Hailey (Stanley) and Aaron Johnson (Steve). Photo by Daniel Knight.
University of Evansville Theatre’s production of Williams’ award-winning play created an honest and carnal environment that perfectly juxtaposed Blanche’s pristine facade. Through the production’s intricate set design, bustling background and honest performances, the play’s theme of survival shined through and breathed new life into iconic characters in theater.
“Streetcar” follows the the woes of Southern belle Blanche Dubois. After losing her family’s plantation and a series of social misfortunes, Blanche takes refuge with her sister Stella Kowalski and her blue collar husband, Stanley in the French Quarter of New Orleans with the hope of reinventing herself. A suspicious Stanley uncovers the truth of his sister-in-law’s improper escapades, ruining any chance for Blanche’s new life and pushes her into a mental breakdown.
Senior Olivia Hebert’s Blanche was equal parts alluring and sad. Her quick wit, soft drawl and spot on one liners made for some of the night’s biggest laughs and heart wrenching scenes. Hebert combined Blanche’s desire to be a new person and her yearning for passion and purpose with guarded honesty. Her scenes with Raleigh Wade’s Mitch, while light on the surface, had a depth that paired nicely. Hebert delivered a phenomenal collegiate career ending performance of one of theater’s greatest female leads.
Hebert’s portrayal of the self conscious Blanche was equally match with senior Hailey Lynn Suggs performance of Stella Kowalski. Suggs nailed the jaded younger sister role and exuded a proud, confident and sensual woman that is, sadly, not often associated with the role. Although she maintained Stella’s submissive and non confrontational nature with regard to Blanche’s feelings and Stanley’s rage, Suggs embraced the sexuality that Blanche desired so deeply.
Left to Right: Raleigh Wade (Mitch), Andy Shook (Pablo), Aaron Johnson (Steve), Hailey Suggs (Stella), Olivia Hebert (Blanche), Chris Hailey (Stanley), Trevor Guyton (Doctor), and Elisa Hoover (Nurse). Photo by Daniel Knight.
But Chris Hailey’s Stanley Kowalski was goosebump worthy. He melded into the fabric of the story effortlessly and represented the working man with dignity and harshness rather than simple mindedness and arrogance. His performance made my skin crawl one minute from disgust then warmed my heart the next. I both hated Stanley and rooted for him and I commend Hailey for his work to strike that balance.
Although there were times when the energy of the cast varied slightly, the supporting ensemble members found ways to bring the main cast back to their original pace. Even those who lurked behind the shutters of the set delivered the entire show -- a difficult task to meet when there is so much to see on stage.
But what really made UE’s “Streetcar” shine was the striving for truth in all aspects of the show from the start, which allowed for Blanche’s mental state to deteriorate believably. The intention of the cast was no doubt a focal point of director R. Scott Lank’s rehearsing and it was executed effortlessly.