BWW Reviews: Firehouse Theatre Project's STREETCAR, A Wild and Engrossing Ride
The bar is set impossibly high when a theatre attempts to produce an American masterpiece such as Tennessee Williams's A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Notwithstanding, a committed production team and an inspirited cast at The Firehouse Theatre more than reach the bar in a surefire hit. A bit of advice: buy tickets now!
Director Tawnya Pettiford-Wates has assembled the perfect team to mount this great American classic. Her well-grouped and highly proficient production crew and the performances of an impressive cast and supporting band masterfully command even the smallest details. The set design of Edwin Silpek maximizes the spacing of the lean stage and, combined with supreme attention to the French Quarter of 1940s New Orleans, brings Kowalski's tiny apartment and surrounding neighborhood to life in considerable detail. Andrew Bonniwell's lighting design does a good job of highlighting the drama of Williams's script and Devario Simmons's costume design lands directly on the mark.
At the skillful hands of Pettiford-Wates, scene changes are functional and fluid; she relies on showmanship like slow motion choreography, live jazz music and strategic character movements to progress the story forward.
Williams's masterpiece is chock-full of truths and analyses of the human condition. All three major characters are blinded by their own imperfections; none more than Blanche DuBois (Bianca Bryan) who finds solace in darkness. Brushing aside her own mental and physical flaws, she doesn't deal in reality. Her sister Stella Kowalski (Lauren Marie Hafner) is more than willing to turn a blind eye to her own abusive husband, Stanley (Joseph Carlson), as she perfectly surmises toward the outset of the drama, "It's always a powder-keg."
As Blanche, Bryan's steady unraveling is one of many highlights of this production. Underscoring, mood-setting live vocals provided by Margarette Joyner are another audience rousing feature. Hafner's Stella meticulously bounces from white-hot lover to even keeled sister. Whether passionate or volcanic, the chemistry between Hafner and Carlson is unimpeachable.
Stepping into an iconic role, one that Marlon Brando first portrayed, comparisons are going to be drawn. In a performance that raises the stakes for all Richmond actors, Joseph Carlson's portrayal of Stanley Kowalski is riveting, as he effortlessly shifts from a man of perfect restraint to an animal in the wild.
Williams's burning prose is energized by remarkable performances and high production values and elevates regional theatre in Richmond, Virginia. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE plays through May 17 at The Firehouse Theatre Project on Broad Street.
Photo Credit: Bill Sigatoos