Red-Headed Woman: A Streetcar Named Desire with Ann-Margret (for Parterre Box)

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Ann-Margret as Blanche and Beverly D’Angelo as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Cameron Kelsall: In the time before Amazon’s ubiquity, I remember going to my college bookstore and physically buying course materials from the textbook department in the basement. One of my professors assigned A Streetcar Named Desire for a class, and the store ordered an edition that featured shirtless, hunky Treat Williams on the cover. Well, once I pushed my eyes back into my head, I made a point to seek out the television adaptation in which he appeared, alongside the very 1980s cast of Ann-Margret, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid. It took a decade-plus to actually get around to it, but I’m glad I did. Unlike the recent NT Live production we considered, David—a near-total write-off in my book—this made-for-network version is surprisingly provocative and creative for its time. It’s not an unqualified success, but in terms of understanding the play as a whole, it’s a necessary part of the conversation.

David Fox: Isn’t it interesting how much context and the passage of time can change one’s impression? When I saw the original telecast of this Streetcar—a play I knew very well by then—I pretty much rejected it as a non-starter. I doubt I’ve watched more than a few minutes of it since, but looking at it again now—especially coming just days after watching Benedict Andrews’ smugly auteurist, clueless production—I’m inclined to be far more generous. Like you, Cameron, I still don’t find this version fully successful, but director John Erman’s adaptation is an honorable and thoughtful attempt to realize Tennessee Williams’ play, including offering a fuller version of the script, and—boldly, for 1980s television—a considerably more frank and sometimes difficult to watch depiction of the violence. The central performances mostly have strengths and weaknesses, but one jumps out for me as perhaps the best I’ve ever seen. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Click here to read the full article at Parterre Box. 

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