Streetcar Named Desire sizzles at Ion Theatre Company
It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s New Orleans in the summer. In 1940, in the Kowalski’s apartment there is no air conditioning. Blanche DuBois has come to visit her sister, Stella Kowalski, and brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, whom she has never met. It is an understatement to say that these three are flawed, a gross understatement.
Ion Theatre Company is currently showcasing Tennessee Williams’ classic A Streetcar Named Desire under Claudio Raygoza’s creative direction. His multi-level set provides both the interior of the Kowalski’s two-room apartment, the street, and hints of even more. A profusion of clear bare bulbs hang from above, with their filaments barely aglow, like fireflies glowing at different heights.
As the audience enters the overly warm theatre and their eyes adjust to dark, they begin to notice bodies scattered about. It’s hot, unbearably hot in New Orleans. As the theatre darkens further, the bodies move and disappear. It’s time to meet the Kowalskis.
Matt Scott is Stanley. Before he utters a sound, he is threatening. He is the ruler of his kingdom. He proves quickly that this Stanley is one of the darkest I’ve seen. Scott’s actions also reveal a side not often seen. His Stanley roars like a lion, but can mew like a kitten, if only momentarily. His byword is like “my way or the highway,” in modern parlance.
Sara Beth Morgan is Stella. Yes, Stella fears her husband and loves him in a strange mix of emotions. She knows better than to light the wick of his instant temper, which takes mere seconds to boil over into rage. She also knows what she loves about her husband and how to please him and, at the same time, pleasing herself. She willingly lives in a world of tradeoffs.
Monique Gaffney is Blanche DuBois. Her inner demons dominate her. Blanche is a study in dichotomy. Her facade of southern gentility is cracked and weather-beaten. She and Stella share very little in common. They both live in a world that they can’t control and have quite different tactics in attempting to control their destiny.
These three actors have created clarity in each of their roles. Gaffney seldom leaves the stage. Even when gone, her presence is still felt. Scott portrays a very believable character whose insecurities are well masked. Morgan creates fine subtleties in her interpretation of Stella that form the complex character well. The contrasts and compliments of these three create a wonderful dynamic.
Brian Mackey as Blanche’s romantic interest, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, gives depth to his role. He portrays Mitch’s emotional rollercoaster well. Squabbling neighbors Steven and Eunice Hubbell are ably played by Rich Carrillo and Morgan Trant. Rounding out the cast are Colin Simon as Pablo Gonzalez and Bebe Black and Kevin Koppman-Gue, both playing multiple roles.
Tim Boyce’s sound design is brilliant. When the train passes the apartment, the whole house vibrates. His complex track defines locations quite well. The music selections throughout carried the feel of the story. The director’s extremely dark lighting design added to the atmosphere of A Street Car Named Desire.
This production runs just under three hours. It is extremely intense. I felt that we finally have a true understanding of the Kowalskis and Blanche. You will not forget these three for quite some time. A Street Car Named Desire plays through August 10, 2008 at Ion Theatre. For information and reservations call 619 374-6894 or go to www.iontheatre.com.
Matt Scott, Sara Beth Morgan, Brian Mackey, Morgan Trant, Bebe Black, Monique Gaffney, Rich Carrillo, Colin Simon, Kevin Koppman-Gue
Producer Glenn C. Paris, AD Jeffrey Jones, Prod SM Gwen Fish, Rehearsal SM Nikki Hanzal, Dramaturge Matt Irwin, Scenic/Lights Claudio Raygoza, Assoc Light Design Brylan Ranscht
Author: Tennessee Williams
Director: Claudio Raygoza
Date Reviewed: July 19, 2008
Dates: Thursday to Sunday, thru August 10, 2008
Running Time: 173 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions
Caution Guidance: Herbal cigarettes and gun shots
Ion Theatre Company
4580-B Alvarado Canyon Road
San Diego, 92120
Box Office Phone: 619 374-6894