It isn’t often you walk into a theatre to see a 1948 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama by an iconic American playwright, and are greeted with DJ, who happens to be a fabulous chick drinking a beer. It does clue you in that the Theatre @ Boston Court means business when they label their production of A Streetcar Named Desire “reimagined”. Don’t want a DJ paired with Tennessee Williams? Ok, but it’s your loss. Really.
This play has never been a walk in the park, however my love for Streetcar (and Tennessee Williams for that matter) knows no bounds, so I’m not coming to this review from an unbiased angle. If you have not had the opportunity to see this play on stage, you really have an obligation as a good ‘ole American to do so. Go because you should and don’t worry, you won’t regret it. Now, if you are one of those people who have seen the show onstage, read the play, worked on a scene in class, and can mimic Marlon Brando yelling, “Stellaaaaaaaaa!” from the big (or small) screen my recommendation isn’t different, the reason is.
First of all, let’s just acknowledge that you are in the very capable hands of the Theatre @ Boston Court. If you aren’t nodding in agreement immediately, get to know this theatre. I think it’s one of the most exciting places to see remarkable and thought provoking theatre in Los Angeles. No joke.
It’s “reimagined”. What does that mean, exactly? Probably as much or as little as you are comfortable with. The first thing that will jump out at you is the DJ (Sam Sewell) and the next would likely be the set (Efren Delgadillo, Jr.) which was industrial and modern in its two-story, no door/walls framing. Interesting for a show that opened on Broadway in December 1947. You’ll definitely notice the color blind casting… and you can leave it at that, but that label is too simple. A caucasian Blanche (Jaimi Paige) and ethnic cast was purposeful. Blanche’s sister Stella (Maya Lynne Robinson) and her husband Stanley (Desean Kevin Terry) are African American. This is a big deal for “color blind” casting alone, not to mention the effect it has on the story if the viewer acknowledges the ethnicity instead of dismissing it. The “take” on this show brings to focus and encourages current social commentary from a piece written 70 years ago. All this, without really changing the written and intended themes from years ago. The truth is, the more things change, the more things stay the same. This production of A Streetcar Named Desire just may highlight this for you. They’ve modernized it… but that’s not completely true. You see a modern Stella, Stanley, Mitch (Luis Kelly-Duarte) and friends, but Blanche seems to be stuck in the 1940’s. Obviously this is intentional, but why?
Boston Court says it best: “This daring new production strips away decades of Southern gothic gauze to reveal striking themes of class, race, and gender—reinvigorating the classic which shocked audiences in its debut 70 years ago. By placing the iconic 1940s-era Blanche within an entirely contemporary and multicultural environment, this 21st century production highlights the timeless relevance of this play for our divided America.”
You can take this show at face value or not. If it’s your first time seeing Streetcar it may be the best you can do! Honestly, it’s a handful. But if you are the experienced theatre lover that I hope you are it will inspire and excite you. You’ll be reminded of why theatre is Art, which a capital A.
The actors… all the actors, down to the smallest of roles, are brilliant. The direction (Michael Michetti) is fantastic. The vision (and we need some vision right now, yes?) for the reimagined production is there, no doubt with the help of the assistant director (June Carryl) and dramaturg (Fanshen Cox Digiovanni). Purists may have one beef with the modernization/interpretation, but I’m not going to give it away. It will be obvious and it won’t make or ruin the show for you, no matter what your opinion is. I’m not forgetting to give a synopsis for this iconic play. If you don’t know the show, for the love of GOD go see it. A great American play done right in Los Angeles. This is not to be missed.
Boston Court Performing Arts Center
70 N. Mentor Ave, Pasadena
8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays
thru March 25
Tickets up to $39