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... Bridget Flanery
THE YALE HERALD January 25, 2002 / A & E
Yale drama students take on the masters Drama School's gripping 'Streetcar' steams By Julie O'Connor
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 dynamic. 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 www.yaleherald.com )