Writer Gwendolyn Quinn reviews Broadway's newest offering, "A Streetcar Named Desire," starring Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wood Harris.
The Plot: In this multicultural revival of Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we are presented with struggles: between husband and wife, between sisters, between friends and society, but ultimately within themselves. The play made its original Broadway debut in 1947, with Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. The film adaptation, which followed in 1951 and featured the original Broadway actors (with the exception of Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by Vivien Leigh as Blanche), won five Academy Awards.
In the Broadway production at the Broadhurst Theatre, the character of Stanley, a hardworking industrial worker, is played by Blair Underwood, who makes his Broadway debut. Stanley is married to Stella (Daphne Rubin-Vega) and they live in an apartment on Elysian Fields Avenue in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Stanley is a physically and emotionally abusive husband grappling with the reality of his vices that are in strong contrast to what he actually wants. Stella’s sister Blanche (Nicole Ari Parker) comes to visit from their native, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi. After being forced out of town because of an affair with an underage young man, Blanche experiences a series of other problems and challengers—bad marriage/relationships and alcoholism. Blanche’s arrival and subsequent extensive stay creates conflict with Stanley, therefore adding pressure to her relationship with her sister Stella. Blanche is the subject of cruel and violent behavior by Stanley, who ultimately has her committed to a mental institution.
Why you should see it: A seasoned and highly-skilled actor, Underwood brings his own unique brand of charm and sex appeal to this Broadway role of Stanley, giving him passion amidst his complexity and brutality. But the biggest surprise is Parker's portrayal of Blanche. Under Parker's talents, Blanche is a charming Southern belle—vulnerable, witty, humorous and deeply complicated. Parker embodies the very soul of this character with grace and style. Many believed that Blanche’s character was based on Williams’ sister, Rose Williams, who suffered from mental illness and later become incapacitated after a lobotomy. Parker captures the character’s delicate balance between fantasy and reality in a compelling and riveting manner. This role should launch other big opportunities for this underrated rising star. Daphne Rubin-Vega (“Rent,” “Anna in the Tropics”), also a 2012 Outer Critics Circle nominee for her role of Stella, plays Stanley’s devoted wife and Blanche’s loving and caring sister. Stella, is the most believable and sympathetic character in the production, and Rubin-Vega portrays her with enormous depth and a wide range of emotions. Wood Harris (“Wire”) gives a convincing performance as Mitch, a kind and heartbroken suitor of Blanche. And legendary dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, plays a Mexican neighbor. The 81-year old de Lavallade looks like a 60 year-old woman and is a beautiful and delightful addition to the production.
"A Streetcar Named Desire" is directed by award-winning director and playwright, Emily Mann, with original music composed by five-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard. It is produced by Stephen C. Byrd and Alia M. Jones of Front Row Productions, also the producers of the 2008 Broadway revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Other producers’ credits include Anthony Lacavera, BET Networks, Henry G. Jarecki, Simon Says Entertainment, Dancap Productions, in association with Linda Davila, Patricia and Thomas Bransford and Theatre Venture Inc. Hear Blair discuss his role, and his career as an actor.
See “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Broadhurst Theatre (located at 235 West 44th Street), New York, New York. AMBERmag.com has a special Beauty & Broadway package for Streetcar. Visit: events.ambermag.com for more information.
Gwendolyn Quinn is veteran media specialist with a career spanning 20 years. She is the founder of the African American Public Relations Collective (AAPRC) and the publisher and editorial director of Global Communicator, an e-publication for public relations, marketing, journalists and communications professionals. She is a contributor to Souls Revealed (Souls of My Sisters/Kensington) and featured in Handle Your Entertainment Business (Grand Central/Warner Publishing). She is a contributor to the forthcoming book, Souls of My Faithful Sisters (Souls of My Sisters/Kensington).