Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” opened this past weekend at Falcon Theatre in Newport. It was my first time at Falcon, the area’s only storefront theater. The atmosphere was close to perfect for what is a difficult story to absorb — two sisters, a husband who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with a short-term move-in that becomes extended, with an ill-fated romance happening in tandem. What makes the Falcon a perfect venue to tackle this piece?
It’s the intimacy, whether that’s the small number seats — fewer than 100 — or the positioning of the stage, which allows everyone to be part of the story. As you watch the play, you feel like you’re just outside the two-bedroom apartment, peering in on what’s happening to this couple’s life. Because the story is laden with drama, providing more questions than answers, Falcon is probably just the type of setting Williams would’ve envisioned.
The play, written in 1947 and receiving the Pulitzer Prize a year later, has been updated through Director Nate Netzley’s modernization of the French Quarters to post-Katrina era. While the story is over 70 years old, its themes of economic struggle, addiction, and physical abuse are still so relevant.
Tara Williams plays protagonist Blanche. Williams carries with her a host of credentials locally as well as from the Chicago area and Florida. It can be difficult to like or empathize with Blanche, due to the general disregard she holds for those around her. Even as her world crumbles at the end, you aren’t able to witness the vulnerability you’d imagine seeing. Blanche’s sister, Stella, played by Ellie Margolis, is strong in this role, and likable as well. She has great chemistry with Stanley, played by Phineas Clark. Together, they make this drama exciting while simultaneously creating the glue for what ultimately is a tumultuous relationship.
Mitch, played by Charlie Roettig, is the doomed suitor and plays this well. I wish the character had shown more emotion when Blanche was escorted out at the end, but maybe that’s the choice of Netzley in interpreting Williams’ work.
The audience is left with an important question at the end: Who’s crazy in this story; the ones who stay within the apartment in the rowdy town or Blanche, who leaves?
“A Streetcar Named Desire” runs through March 30 at Falcon Theatre.
Kathy DeBrosse is Vice President, Marketing & Engagement at ArtsWave.