2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ Deep Blue Theater Collective

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A lost Blanche DuBois greets you at the door, as you make your way upstairs, live piano music plays loudly as the troupe of performers dances and lightly interacts with the audience, asking simple questions and giving out shots of bourbon, this is Deep Blue Theater Collective’s attempt at a “radical reimagining of an American Classic.”

A Streetcar Named Desire is considered by many to be the greatest American play of the 20th Century, it has been performed and revived many times over. If you are going to do it for a Fringe Festival you’re going to need to do something really different and unusual. This show comes close.

The audience is arranged semi-circle around the beautifully designed set by Edith Campbell. Director Meg Trelease expertly guides the players though the space. Once the play begins, the audience interaction shifts almost entirely to Blanche. Blanche’s character naturally has asides to herself, and the choice to have her play them directly to the audience is a very effective one. Most of Meg Trelease’s choices are spot on.

Rebecca Jane Cureton (Blanche) and (Stanley). Photo by Ashley LaBonde, Wide Eyed Studios.
Rebecca Jane Cureton (Blanche DuBois) and Kyle Fennie (Stanley Kowalski). Photo by Ashley LaBonde, Wide Eyed Studios.

The acting, for the most part, is superb. Rebecca Jane Cureton nails her character. Her slow breakdown is really wonderful to watch. Victoria Rose Bonito as Stella is also a pleasure. Kyle Fennie, as Stanley Kowalski, has made some interesting choices. I prefer having Stanley to have an aura of violence about him. I just didn’t see this in Kyle’s performance. One of the shining moments is Merceedes Simmons; her roles are small, but she brought a light and presence to the stage every time. Newton Buchanan as sweet and confused Mitch is also notable. Joanna Volpe, Seth Martin, and Brock Vickers fill out the rest of the roles.

The run-time is also very long for a Fringe Show. The guide says the show runs 85 minutes with an intermission, but the show started at 8:40 pm and ended at 11:20 pm. There we not many cuts to the script and the director added small Lazzi-like transition scenes to show passage of time. The transition scenes could have been a time to really push the boundaries of the immersive theater experience, but mostly they just involved the ensemble members running a circle around the edge of the audience.

Overall, I felt this was a production that had really great instincts, but needed to trust itself enough to really take some chances. This is Deep Blue Theater Collective’s first show, so perhaps this is what will happen in the future.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with an intermission.

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A Streetcar Named Desire plays September 20, 2016 at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival performing at the Maas Building – 1325 North  Randolph Street. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 413 1318 , or purchase them online.

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