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Raleigh Little Theatre Review: A Streetcar Named Desire Is A Must-See Drama

October 20, 2002 - Raleigh, NC:


Raleigh Little Theatre’s riveting revival of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is a must-see drama. It is superbly staged by long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who really emphasizes the casual crime that punctuates the boredom in the sordid surroundings that provide the backdrop for the play’s Sturm und Drang. RLT’s rendition of Streetcar features an absolutely marvelous true-to-life scenic and lighting design by Rick Young for the Kowalskis’ shabby apartment, terrific 1940s (mostly blue-collar) fashions by costume designer Vicki Olson, and a skillful sound design by Rick LaBach.

RLT’s Streetcar also features an electrifying performance by David McClutchey as brutish, sexually aggressive Yankee vulgarian Stanley Kowalski and a luminous portrayal by Mary K. Rowland of Kowalski’s emotionally fragile Southern sister-in-law, Blanche DuBois.

Stanley Kowalski is a feisty ex-Marine of Polish extraction, and McClutchey plays him as a cocky, self-absorbed jerk. Kowalski likes to drink, gamble, and shoot the breeze with his low-life friends from the nightmarish section of the French Quarter of New Orleans, circa 1947. But, most of all, he likes to ravish to his long-suffering wife, Stella (played grit and spunk and touching vulnerability by Ami Bossi). And she likes to ravish him right back!

Indeed, that mutual lust causes Stella to forgive a multitude of sins, including Stanley’s escalating verbal and physical abuse. Then the arrival of Stella’s sister, Blanche, with her highfaluting put-on airs, precipitates a crisis in the Kowalskis’ marriage.

The animal attraction that draws Stanley and Stella together to rut is absolutely repulsive to the refined “lady” — an old-maid schoolteacher — such as Blanche. But she is a lady who likes to flirt and has far too many ugly skeletons rattling around in her own closet. She really knows how to get Stanley’s goat, and she cannot resist doing just that until one day he strikes back at her with devastating results.

Rowland creates a deeply moving characterization of Blanche, a bruised and fading
blossom of a now impoverished branch of a aristocratic Southern family; and Stanley would like nothing better than to pull off her petals, one by one.

Battered in body and spirit, Blanche finds a most sympathetic interpreter in Rowland, who gives a chilling recreation of Blanche’s harrowing descent into madness.

Rob Jenkins is good as Stanley’s drinking buddy — and Blanche’s beau for the briefest time, until Stanley wrecks the relationship — Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, but Betsy Bates needs to be more outspokenly assertive as the Kowalskis’ upstairs landlady, Eunice Bates.

David Coulter, Sherry Derry, Del Flack, Bob Harris, Ursela McCabe, Steven B. Mitchell, Timothy O’Connor, Greg Paul, Nikki Sallie, and Tippy Thornton complete the strong supporting cast of RLT’s outstanding production of this Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece of Modern Drama. Don’t miss it.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents A Streetcar Named Desire Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 23-26, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 27, at 3 p.m. on the Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh. $13-$19, except $11 students/seniors Oct. 13. 919/821-3111. http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/desire.htm [inactive 7/1/03].