“STELLA!” The infamous line from A Streetcar Named Desire was firmly cemented in the annals of pop culture when Marlon Brando first belted it out decades ago. That is all many people know about the show, but Tennessee Williams’ work has much more to offer. The play delves deep into the complicated lives of the very different DuBois sisters.
Blanche, played with an escalating level of tense cheerfulness by Carrie Schlatter, is a southern belle who has fallen on hard times. Her troubled past has made her leave the family mansion to join her sister, Stella Kowalski in a rowdy neighborhood in New Orleans. Schlatter captures Blanche’s fragile state, vacillating from childish enthusiasm in one moment to snooty disdain in the next. She is in a perpetual state of performing a role, but whether it’s for her or for others is hard to tell.
Stella’s husband Stanley, played by Chris Saunders, is coarse and uncouth in Blanche’s eyes and the two immediately butt heads. His raw sexuality and unashamed aggression is intimidating to the delicate Blanche. He’s also the only one willing to question her motives. Her shiny view of the world often skips over the uncomfortable details of her past; bury any unpleasantness as soon as she encounters it. As Blanche’s life spirals out of control her brother-in-law begins to peel back the layers of her lies.
Lisa Ermel’s Stella is caught between the two. The more she tries to make peace, the worse things get. Her frustration mounts as she tries to understand the reasons behind her own choices and the positives and negative aspects of the world she’s chosen. Mitch (Tim Sheehan) is Stanley’s friend, a momma’s boy with a soft-spot for elegant women and a Forrest Gump earnestness. He rounds out the main quarto of actors who drive the show. Each one adds a very different and crucial element to the production.
Williams’ writing is reason enough to see any of his plays. His beautiful lines of dialogue paint a vivid picture of the sultry New Orleans nights. In addition to that Acting Up Productions has done an excellent job recreating the 1950s world of Streetcar. From the costumes to the props, the attention to detail is lovely. The set provides tight-quarters for the actors, adding to the intentionally claustrophobic feel of the play. Much of Williams’ brilliance lies in the ambiguity of his characters’ motivations. Is Blanche intentionally deceptive or has she deluded herself with her own lies? Is Stella in an abusive relationship or did she intentionally choose someone whose penchant towards violence thrills her?
This is one of the most famous American plays ever written and it’s one that’s rarely produced. Woody Allen’s recent modern retelling “Blue Jasmine” has made the production even more relevant. Tickets are only $15; there’s no excuse for missing this one!
Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The Acting Up Productions show runs until Sunday, March 23. Performances begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The IndyFringe Theatre is located at 719 E. St. Clair, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Tickets: Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.
Photos Courtesy of Acting Up Productions