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... Bridget Flanery 
January 25, 2002  / A & E
Yale drama students take on the masters
Drama School's gripping 'Streetcar' 
By Julie O'Connor 

Bridget Flannery, DRA '02, and William Thompson, DRA '02, star in the School of Drama's production of A Streetcar Named Desire
  Tennessee Williams is a playwright of enchanted reality, and
A Streetcar Named Desire remains one of his most intense spells.
The silence of the audiences at the Yale Repertory Theatre speaks
to the play's success—the talented actors from the School of Drama
inhabit their roles with forceful allure. There have been many
interpretations of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but for it to achieve
its haunting effect, the connections between performers must appear
sincere and instinctual. 
  This Blanche Du-Bois (Bridget Flanery, DRA '02) succeeds in 
silences—in the stillness of the moment that she and Stanley 
(William Thompson, DRA '02) first set eyes on each other, in the way 
she slides back and arches against chairs. Her flighty affects are 
just right—the way her hands dangle from her wrists as she swirls 
about the room, her steamy exhales of cigarette smoke. She is 
subtle, as illustrated by the scene in which Mitch (Leslie Elliard, 
DRA '02) draws close behind her and she just senses him there, 
leaning her head back ever so slightly.Flanery's performance is 
masterful because she exposes the complexities of Blanche's 
character. She is remarkably endearing but also disingenuous enough 
to spark Stanley's selfish brutality. 
  Thompson holds up his end of the performance, melding Stanley's
violent cruelty toward his visiting sister-in-law with his aching 
need for his wife, Stella (Bess Wohl, DRA '02). He plays to the 
weaknesses of his character without villainizing his actions. The 
famous nighttime scene in which Stanley implores Stella to return to 
him is wrenching and well choreographed; as she falls into him, they 
surrender to each other. Wohl makes a convincing choice to emphasize 
Stella's adoration for Stanley, rather than any great feebleness of 
her character. As this scene demonstrates, Director Trip Cullman, 
DRA '02, creates movements that are both natural and mystical, 
building flashbacks and premonitions of tragedy while still 
preserving the play's realism. 
  Elliard's actions as Mitch are also well developed—he rubs his 
hands on his jeans, he sweats through his jacket, he clings to 
objects with tenderness. He is believable in his innocent attraction 
to Blanche; he is her hope for kindness, "a cleft in the rock of the 
world" in which she might hide. The change in Mitch's demeanor after 
he is forced to re-imagine Blanche's character is as moving as her 
struggle to smile charmingly past his empty chair; Elliard retains 
elements of his affection behind the harshness of the pair's new 
  Like Blanche, Mitch gravitates toward beauty in others and in 
objects: a Chinese paper lantern, a silver cigarette case, a bouquet 
of flowers, a stuffed animal from the carnival. The blooming of 
their attraction in innocent detail much resembles the relationship 
of Laura and Jim in Williams' The Glass Menagerie. 
  Attentiveness to props is very important in Streetcar, and 
generally, in this production, they are well-selected and 
coordinated to enhance the characters' interactions without becoming 
overly distracting. While the choice to hang large slabs of meat 
from the stage ceiling is justifiable in the symbolism of the play, 
it appears excessive and unnecessary in a set that is already 
red-lighted and splashed with rusty, -like stains. These are the slums
of New Orleans, and the red heat of the summer and public brawls 
of the neighbors are enough to suggest the bestial elements of 
Blanche's surroundings and to juxtapose them against her cravings
for a higher beauty, for magic, and for poetry. 
  The folding screen that divides the two run-down rooms of the 
apartment visually enhances the contrast between the interactions of 
the "heterogeneous types" of Stanley's card-playing friends and 
Blanche and her sister's friends. At the same time, this dividing 
screen denies any real privacy. This heightens the problem of a 
realism from which there is no escape, but which can somehow be made 
insignificant by "things that happen between a man and a woman in 
the dark." 
  The silence of suggested darkness in this play is as horrifying 
as the replaying carnival riff that perverts itself during Blanche's 
increasingly frequent flashbacks. Besides the occasionally 
overpowering music, the clamor of a train repeatedly rips through 
scenes, and through Blanche's fragile psyche. "Don't hang back with 
the brutes!" Blanche cries, imploring her sister to escape the 
depravity of New Orleans. As the local streetcar unexpectedly passes 
by, she covers her ears to shield herself from its thundering. But 
Flanery's most transfixing moment comes
when Blanche DuBois's gentleness is suddenly overpowered by the flood
of her own desires. "Ah, me!" she sighs, as she glides through the dingy
room, cooling herself with a paper fan in the heat of the storm, dark 
and entrancing. 
 2002 The Yale Herald
( taken from )
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