Some Things Are Not Forgivable: A Streetcar Named Desire via NT Live (for Parterre Box)

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Gillian Anderson as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire (NT Live)

David Fox: I didn’t see director Benedict AndrewsA Streetcar Named Desire, which was first staged at the New Vic and later in the U. S., in the theater, but I previously saw (and reviewed) this NT Live HD-cast when it came to a local movie theater in 2014. Still, I welcomed the chance to revisit it. It’s not rare that my reactions evolve over time, and I find new elements in a second viewing. So it was here—what I first thought was sincere but wrongheaded, I now find appalling and largely irredeemable. Perhaps the idea here is to give Williams’ 1947 play a renewed sense of visceral power that speaks to a younger audience? Maybe, but it doesn’t speak to me. If you were to look at the screen with the sound off, you might think you were watching David Rabe’s Hurlyburly: a crew of second-rate people, wandering around a non-descript contemporary home, with little feeling of purpose or momentum. What’s utterly lost in Benedict Andrews’s garishly reconceived Streetcar is lyricism, poetry, all sense of the South or American history more broadly… and even worse, any dignity for the female characters.

Cameron Kelsall: When this production traveled to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn after its initial London run, I dutifully bought a ticket based on the rapturous reviews it received across the pond. Virtually everything about the experience left me cold, from Gillian Anderson’s skillful but empty performance as Blanche DuBois to Andrews’s period-eclipsing mise-en-scene. It was intriguing to return to this interpretation after seeing the director’s take on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—which you and I caught together a few years ago at an NT Live relay—which confirmed several suspicions I had about how he views the Williams milieu, and American life in general. Among other things, Andrews seems to regard Williams’ southerners as little more than trailer trash—either with (Cat) or without (Streetcar) money. It’s evident in the aesthetics: here, we first see Anderson’s Blanche sporting knockoff Chanel sunglasses, toting a fake Vuitton valise; when she arrives at Elysian Fields, she encounters Stella’s neighbors drinking from brown-paper bags. Stella herself (Vanessa Kirby) seems to be outfitted entirely from the sale rack at H&M…

Click here to read the full post at Parterre Box.

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