A Streetcar Named Desire

[The following review appeared in the Denver Post on August 28th.]

When Tennessee Williams' Broadway mega-hit, A Streetcar Named Desire, finally worked its way through censorship and debuted on the silver screen in 1951, it signaled a significant transformation in the American psyche: an admission that rape is a legitimate public metaphor for the manner in which the savage, instinctive elements of society brutalize our hopes and dreams.

This and other universal themes get impressive treatment from the principles in director Craig A. Bond's well-executed production at Vintage Theatre's intimate 17th Avenue digs.

Haley Johnson as Blanche DuBois and Kurt Brighton as Stanley Kowalski
Haley Johnson as Blanche DuBois
and Kurt Brighton as Stanley Kowalski
Remaining true to the original 1947 New Orleans setting, Bond carefully mines the masterwork's essential and supportive details for poignancy while shaping a fresh and psychologically insightful interpretation.

Bond also tweaks the physical typecasting of Blanche DuBois (Haley Johnson) and her married sibling, Stella Kowalski (Linda Williams), which pays huge dividends in sisterly resonance.

Kurt Brighton as Stanley Kowalski and Linda Williams as Stella Kowalski
Kurt Brighton
as Stanley Kowalski
and Linda Williams
as Stella Kowalski
Johnson's alignment with the behavioral lynchpins of Williams' great heroines, topped off by her dreamy, poetic rendering of the playwright's transcendent lyricism is riveting. Her personification of the decayed beauty of the aristocratic South—with key monologues enhanced by lighting (Jen Orf) and sound (Ray Berry)—echoes sympathetically with designer Nick Kargel's scenic, patina-laden corner of the Big Easy.

Equally at home in the luxuriant Delta dialect, Linda Williams offers a striking dramatic contrast with a vibrant, sexually charged Stella, at once protective of her sister, yet deeply attached to Blanche's antagonist, Stanley.

Alternately bemused, insouciant, and hostile, Kurt Brighton deftly avoids overplaying the industrial transplant Stanley's violent, inebriated outbursts, instead conveying a consistent and relentlessly escalating malevolence, culminating with sinister perfection in a well-orchestrated, explosive final scene with Blanche.

Patrick Collins, as Blanche's "gentleman caller," Mitch, draws a sensitive counterbalance to Stanley's bestiality, as well as a sublime counterpoint to Blanche's faded gentility.

Some dialects wander or are wholly absent in the supporting roles, where opportunities for stage business are also lost, but Bond does an admirable job perfuming the tableau with French Quarter streetwalkers and vendors and seasoning the emotional gumbo with choice selections of jazz and blues.

Sixty-two years after its New York premiere, as we hear Stanley's final plaintive, "Stella"—now more a question than a command—we still are left wondering what path she will choose, an apt metaphor for our national soul-searching during this political season.

Vintage Theatre's production of A Streetcar Named Desire runs through September 21st. 303-839-1361 or

Bob Bows


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