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Strong Performances Keep Falcon Theatre’s “Streetcar” On Track

Review by Laurel Humes of Streetcar Named Desire: Falcon Theatre

Tara Williams’ tour de force as Blanche is the highlight of Falcon Theatre’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

The other actors are strong, especially Ellie Margolis as sister Stella. But Blanche is the play’s most complex character, and Williams takes every advantage of that.

The basic plot of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play, which won the Pulitzer Prize, is certainly well known. The sisters were raised in a prosperous and supposedly genteel family in small-town Mississippi. Stella escaped to New Orleans and now is married to the rough and rowdy Stanley. Blanche arrives at their tiny apartment penniless, having lost the family estate.

Blanche is a study in contrasts. She is demanding, but truly needy. She is appalled at Stanley’s behavior, but attracted to him. She insults her sister, but loves her.

Williams’ special talent in Streetcar is letting us see Blanche’s vulnerability, what is beneath and behind the arrogance. She has suffered, through the deaths of her parents, then loneliness, then her turn to tawdry romances to feel loved. Blanche is adept at lying to herself and others, revealed in this poignant line: “I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth.”

Stanley matches Blanche in every argument, every insult. He goes further, afraid he has been cheated out of his wife’s family money, and then digging behind Blanche’s lies.

Phineas Clark’s Stanley can be charismatic and sexy, so it’s easy to see why Stella is attracted to him. But he’s crude and violent, the worst of which is manifested in a compelling and even shocking scene with Blanche late in the play.

So Stella is caught in the middle, expending considerable energy trying to placate her sister and her husband to keep the peace. But Ellie Margolis’ portrayal of Stella has spunk and vitality. We see her as a fully-realized person, not just as a go-between.

I continue to be amazed at the full and detailed sets Falcon manages to mount on its very small stage. This one, designed by Theron Wineinger, is a complete kitchen and bedroom, with all the space and furniture well used by the cast. My only quibble is that it all looks fresh and new, not the shabbiness that we hear Blanche criticize.

The furnishings, props and costumes also make the time period uncertain. Is it the late 1940’s, when there were “bobby-socked students,” as Blanche says? Or is it as contemporary as the Home Depot-looking cabinets?

Directed by Nate Netzley, this is an overall fine production of a 70-year-old theater icon that still resonates today.

A Streetcar Named Desire continues through March 31 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783 or at http://falcontheater.net.