‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at Little Theatre of Alexandria

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“I don’t want realism, I want magic!” exclaims Blanche DuBois in the distinguished Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire. Well, Director Kristina Friedgen and The Little Theatre of Alexandria provide a lot of both with their production of the classic play.

Stella Kowalski (Anna Fagan) and Blanche DuBois (Jennifer Berry). Photo by Matthew Randall.

Left to Right: Anna Fagan (Stella Kowalski) and Jennifer Berry (Blanche DuBois. Photo by Matthew Randall.

Entering the theater I was already awestruck with the meticulously designed set designed by Baron Pugh, painted by Deidre Nicholson Lamb, and decorated by Cecilia Albert. There are high whitewashed walls with light smatterings of mold creeping up the sides, as you would expect in the hot summer slums of New Orleans in 1947. A hole in the plaster, a punch in the wall perhaps? A ripped lampshade is in the trash, and classically southern antique chifforobe tucked in the corner. The detail was magnificent, but when the lights dimmed and the scene began, the walls of the Kowalski apartment disappeared through scrim and the street behind was illuminated by Liz Owens and Nancy Owens, and it was incredible. This staging technique was used throughout the show, offering glimpses of the world just outside, and it was stunning!

Camden Michael Gonzalez (Stanley Kowalski). Photo by Matthew Randall.

Camden Michael Gonzalez (Stanley Kowalski). Photo by Matthew Randall.

To erect her vision Director Friedgen produces an able cast. The first character we meet is the upstairs neighbor, Eunice Hubbell, played by Hilary Adams. Adams is charming as the confidant of Stella Kowalski (Anna Fagan). She is a standout in the talented supporting cast, especially when confronting Stanley (Camden Michael Gonzalez) after he has struck his wife.

We next meet Blanche DuBois (Jennifer Berry). Berry has the most challenging role of the evening, her character crumbling before our eyes as the former beauty is reduced to destitution. Berry slowly deconstructs Blanche, culminating in a heart-wrenching final scene – shocking and very real – as she is reduced to confinement in a mental institution. I do wish, however, that Ms. Berry would have spoken a little slower so I could have enjoyed every tasty morsel of Tennessee Williams’ timeless script even more. But she does portray the vulnerability of Blanche DuBois flawlessly, especially in the final act.

Berry is joined by Anna Fagan playing Stella Kowalski, Blanche’s sister. The pair have seamless chemistry on stage. Fagan is simply beautiful to watch. Perfectly real. From her emotional turmoil with her husband, Stanley, to her heart-wrenching sorrow at the plight of her sister, breaking down as Blanche is taken away after her mental collapse, she is just magical. Ms. Fagan was so marvelous it would not be surprising to me to see her on the professional stage very soon.

Playing Stella’s husband, Stanley, is Camden Michael Gonzalez. Gonzalez handles the role well as the smoldering, blue collar brute. Stanley is a character that can easily be played on “one-note” -there isn’t too much redeeming about him, but Gonzalez finds a way to give Stanlry some humanity when he is begging for his “Girl” after their fight, and when he is stoically listening to Blanche insult him and call him a “commoner.”

Marshall Shirley is amusing as Mitch – the love struck friend of Stanley and suitor to Blanche. His awkward come-ons to Blanche make for some of the much needed comedy of the evening

It is not an easy feat to produce a play as epic as A Streetcar Named Desire, but Director Freidgen and her cast and designers have delivered impressive work. This is a limited engagement, so I would act fast to catch LTA’s powerful production.

Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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A Streetcar Named Desire plays through September 28, 2014 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria -600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or purchase them online.

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