This season The Ringwald Theatre is offering a season of classics, and Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948, tops the list. This production reminds us why this finely drawn story has such lasting power, and in the intimate Ringwald setting, the physical passion and psychological tension are inescapable.
Most people are familiar with the story of fading southern belle Blanche DuBois, who has lost the family estate and shows up on the doorstep of her younger sister, Stella, and animalistic brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. In many respects, the play is a duel between Blanche and Stanley. Blanche has wrapped her fragile sanity in a bubble-wrap of faux gentility and delusional fictions that have allowed her to survive an unrelenting, tragic personal history. Stanley, who sees through and resents Blanche’s pretensions, recognizes her as a threat to Stella’s absolute devotion to him, and is resolved to undo her.
Director Travis Reiff has fun with the uncanny balance of this play and its agile cast; he encourages us to cheer for the underdog, but it’s hard to tell if that’s Stanley or Blanche. While we relate to all of these characters on some level, by the play’s end, we’ve seen too much of their ugly sides. We understand why the characters are the way they are – we may even empathize with them – but we don’t really like them. It’s this unsettling aspect of William’s masterpiece, and this in-your-face Ringwald production, that makes it such a fully satisfying theatre experience.
Jamie Warrow is brilliant as Blanche, who clings to a poetic version of her spiritual destitution, alcoholism and promiscuity. We can forgive her these serious flaws, but condemn her manipulative, hypocritical dismissal of Stanley as a stupid “Pollack” and his friends as “common.” Michael Lopetrone, as Stanley, is a sympathetic character when we see how much he loves Stella and how proud he is of his heritage as an American. We’d like to think he’s just a young man who’s full of himself, but the way he reveals his innate cruelty, and the violence with which he reacts to any challenge to his authority (even from his poker buddies), casts him as the worst kind of bully. Meredith Deighton, as Stella, is playful, sensual, and fairly grounded in her reality—it seems. But she is torn between loyalty to her sister and love for her husband, and ultimately develops her own form of denial to cope. Brandy Joe Plambeck is sweet as Mitch, who develops a crush on the person he thinks Blanche is. But when he is undeceived, even Mitch smells blood in the water.
This production also showcases strong performances by Keith Kalinowski, Lauren Bickers, Justino Solis, Mona Lucius, and Greg Ettleman. The production design team includes set design by Alexander Carr, costume design by Barbie Weisserman, sound design by Mr. Reiff, and lighting design by Mr. Plambeck. Stage Management is by Matt Lira.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” runs through Monday, December 7, 2015, with performances at 8 p.m .on Friday, Saturday and Monday and with 3 p.m. Sunday matinees. Ticket prices are $20.00 for Friday and Saturday performances, $15 for Sunday shows, and Monday nights are half off the original ticket price, at only $10 a ticket. All students can now receive a $5 discount off normal ticket price on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday performances (available at the box office the day of the show with valid student ID). Tickets can be purchased at the Ringwald website or at the theatre box office, which opens 45 minutes before performances; Visa or Mastercard are accepted. The Ringwald is located at 22742 Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, just south of 9 Mile Road.