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Guthrie’s Streetcar is “one of those more-or-less definitive productions”

“This Streetcar is one of those more-or-less definitive productions
that people will remember for some time to come.”

“If there were any justice … Gretchen Egolf’s portrayal of Blanche …

would go down in history as one of the most brilliant performances

in this play’s long and storied history.”

— Tad Simons, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

VIEW PRODUCTION PHOTOGRAPHY

The Guthrie Theater’s production of Tennessee Williams’ iconic American play A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by John Miller-Stephany, opened last Friday in Minneapolis. “Desperate Housewives” star Ricardo Antonio Chavira (Stanley Kowalski), film/television actress Gretchen Egolf (Blanche DuBois), New York actor Brian Keane (Harold “Mitch” Mitchell) and Twin Cities mainstay Stacia Rice (Stella Kowalski) lead the cast of the production, heralded by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine as “one of those more-or-less definitive productions that people will remember for some time to come.”

The production continues through August 29 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. Single tickets are priced from $29 to $60, and are available through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE and online at www.guthrietheater.org. For more information, visit www.guthrietheater.org/whats_happening/shows/2009/streetcar_named_desire

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

by Tad Simons

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

It is unfortunate that the only image of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire to endure in popular culture is that of a young Marlon Brando screaming “Stella!” at the top of his lungs. It’s unfortunate because, out of context, one might get the impression that the character Brando is playing , Stanley Kowalski, is heartbroken over something Stella has done—when in fact it is Stanley who, in a drunken rage, has just hit his pregnant wife, ransacked their apartment, and generally behaved like the abusive moron he is otherwise proud to be.

It’s also unfortunate because the play isn’t really about Stanley; it’s about Blanche DuBois, his wife Stella’s sister, a Southern belle who arrives in the first scene to Stanley and Stella’s working-class neighborhood and immediately begins antagonizing Stanley over his low-class roots, Polish ancestry, brutish behavior, and utter lack of cultural refinement. And if there were any justice in the way greatness is seared into the collective memory of popular culture, Gretchen Egolf’s portrayal of Blanche in the Guthrie’s current production would go down in history as one of the most brilliant performances in this play’s long and storied history.

There is no such justice, of course. Predictably, most of the advance press on the Guthrie’s current production focused on the famous actor who is taking on the Brando-branded role of Stanley Kowalski: Ricardo Antonio Chavira, who plays Carlos on TV’s Desperate Housewives. In the Guthrie’s production, however, it doesn’t take long for Egolf to establish herself as the star of the show.

Egolf is a TV/Broadway veteran who is making her Guthrie debut in Streetcar. Blanche is the belle of her own imaginary ball, a walking stereotype of southern refinement who also happens to be a lush, a liar, and a complete nervous wreck. The genius in Egolf’s performance is that she is able to simultaneously convey both sides of Blanche’s nature—the cotillion-raised society girl and the desperate neurosthene; the delicate flower of privilege and the scrappy survivor she has become.

On the surface, Egolf’s Blanche is an annoying caricature of southern gentility, but seething just beneath her sing-songy Southern accent and delicate, bird-like gestures is a cunning, calculating intelligence. Underneath it tall, Blanche is a shrewd woman who has accurately sized up Stanley as an abusive brute, and while much of her banter is harmless nonsense, she does give her sister Stella (played by Stacia Rice) sound advice with regard to Stella’s abusive and sexually charged marriage to Stanley. Blanche is rightfully appalled when Stella goes back to Stanley after he has hit her, and in many other ways she is the guiding conscience of the play, the one who—despite her pretentiousness, flightiness, and gift for deception—is the character who has the most accurate moral compass. (Which makes the ending all the more devastating.)

Egolf’s brilliance as Blanche doesn’t detract from Chavira’s portrayal of Stanley, however—it simply enhances Chavira’s brutishness. Chavira’s Stanley is a heavy-drinking, poker-playing man’s man, one whose muscles are tight with rage and whose anger is always simmering just beneath the surface, ready to boil over and combust at any moment. Stanley is suspicious of Blanche’s motives from the start, and the hatred between Stanley and Blanche gives the play its essential tension. Stacia Rice’s Stella is the calm eye in the middle of their increasingly furious storm, and the three of them create quite a tumultuous triangle.

(continue reading Tad Simons’ review at http://blogs.mspmag.com/themorningafter/2010/07/a-streetcar-named-desire-the-g.html)

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