Tennessee Williams’ classic play, A Streetcar Named Desire, is unarguably one of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century. Many of its characters, scenes, and dialogue are embedded into the American psyche. Who among us hasn’t heard someone utter a line such as: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”? Because of this familiarity, as well as its dark themes and Williams’ poetic yet challenging dialogue, It is rarely seen beyond the 1951 film. Enter The Bobcat Players. Never one to shy away from a challenge, artistic director Patti Ross (assisted by Pat Depenhart and student directors Abby Kohrmann and Ethan Kopicko) expertly delivered a flawless production. As you enter the theater, you are immediately welcomed to New Orleans and the French Quarter by actor Hugh Harper and his band, The Neon Oranges performing bluesy versions of some familiar tunes.
As the show begins, the lights come up on Eunice Hubbell (Bridget Yeager) and Stella Kowalski (Nicki Goedecke) fanning themselves in the New Orleans summer heat and awaiting the arrival of their spouses, Steve Hubbell (Hugh Harper) and Stanley Kowalski (Brian Brummitt). They show themselves briefly as they pass by on their way to go bowling, and Stella tags along to watch. Shortly after, Blanche Dubois (Casey Novak), a high school English teacher from Laurel, Mississippi arrives at the Kowalski apartment under the pretense of needing a break from her job due to nervous exhaustion. Her reunion with sister Stella is sweet but short-lived, as Blanche is appalled at the conditions in which Stella and Stanley live. Blanche’s condescension of the Kowalski’s lifestyle earns her Stanley’s immediate dislike. Blanche reveals that she has lost the girls’ childhood home, the estate of Belle Reve due to all of the family passing on and Blanche’s paltry earnings being insufficient to pay the mortgage. Stanley immediately thinks that Blanche has cheated Stella (and by association, himself) of her inheritance, and starts investigating Blanche’s past life.
We are given a taste of the tumultuous relationship that Stella and Stanley share when Stanley hosts a poker game that lasts through several hours and 2 cases of beer. He becomes enraged when Blanche and his friend Mitch (Joshua Antoon) begin flirting with each other. He enters the room they are in, throws the radio out of the window, and as Stella races to intervene, Stanley hits her. Blanche and Stella retreat to Steve and Eunice’s apartment upstairs as Stanley is calmed down by his poker buddies Steve, Mitch, and Pablo (Alexander Andres). Later on, Stanley, now remorseful and scared of the consequences of his actions, yells the iconic line “STELLA!!!!”, and to Blanche’s shock, Stella returns to him. In the following days, Blanche tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley to which Stella insists she is happy where she is.
Blanche and Mitch begin dating. As time passes and this relationship develops, Blanche begins to display behaviors that could underscore a much deeper issue. We are also informed of a tragic event in Blanche’s past that could very well explain her behavior. As Stanley begins to receive reports on his inquiries into Blanche’s past, he shares his findings with Mitch, which consequently ends his and Blanche’s budding relationship, sending Blanche even deeper into her descent. Stanley confronts Blanche one final time about her past in an explosive scene that seals the deal on Blanche’s fate.
This is an absolute powerhouse of a cast. Yeager and Harper share a good chemistry as the dysfunctional yet loving couple of Steve and Eunice Hubbell, who epitomize the lower class lifestyle and relationships of the early 1950s. Antoon’s portrayal of the sympathetic character of Mitch is fantastic, and he expertly shows Mitch’s journey from hopefulness and a bit of naïveté to the ugly truth and the despair that accompanies it. A newcomer to our stage, Goedecke is a treasure who talents shines in her portrayal of Stella. The chemistry she has with each of her counterparts (Stanley, Blanche, and Eunice) is great, and she perfectly shows the softer side of Stella as well as her indignant side. Brummitt so completely envelops the character of Stanley that he frightened me as soon as his foot hit the stage! His interpretation of Stanley is spot on. Even the smaller roles, portrayed by Andres, Anthony Manning, Mace Porac, Joyce Hoellein, David Cary, Depenhart and Kopicko were expertly performed by some truly great actors.
The set is both beautiful and “shabby”; an accurate representation of 1950s New Orleans. The hustle and bustle of the vendors from the French Market during scene changes helps to round out the set.
The true star of this production is Casey Novak. Her portrayal of Blanche was nothing short of phenomenal. The volume of lines alone is quite a challenge for many actors, but Novak embraced the poetic rhythm of Williams' words and delivered them flawlessly. The character of Blanche is extremely multi-faceted, often times having to portray many emotions or behaviors in the same scene. Novak navigated each one of Blanche’s idiosyncrasies as well as her descent into madness perfectly.
This production is the whole package. From the expert direction, to the set, to the stellar performances of the cast, it would truly be a shame to miss this iconic play. Fortunately, there are three more chances to see it: tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. All shows start at 7:30, and tickets are a steal at $10 each! Do yourself a favor and come experience A Streetcar Named Desire for yourself! We can’t wait to see you!