Steve Murray

Performing Arts Reviews

Streetcar Promo

Streetcar Named Desire @Shelton Theater

Streetcar Named Desire. Drama. Book by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Julie Dimas-Lockfield. Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA.

Kudos for Shelton Theater’s attempt at one of America’s greatest dramas, A Streetcar Named Desire, the 1947 play written by Tennessee Williams which received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The dark story of the neurotic and delusional Blanche DuBois, who, in desperation, visits her sister Stella and her brutish husband Stanley, contains some fine poetic dialogue and is a feast for Hilary Hesse, who stars in this production.

Hesse’s Blanche arrives with her trunk of gaudy dresses and furs, but it’s her emotional baggage that weighs heaviest. Guilt over causing her young gay husband’s suicide, a series of tawdry affairs, losing the family estate to taxes and being fired from her teaching position for an under-aged assignation have left her frail, jittery and desperate.

Cara McKelvey (Stella Kowalski), Alex Alessandro Garcia (Stanley Kowalski). Photo credit: Matt Shelton.

Cara McKelvey (Stella Kowalski), Alex Alessandro Garcia (Stanley Kowalski). Photo credit: Matt Shelton.

Her high and mighty airs don’t sit well with sister Stella, who’s living with her working class husband Stanley in a shabby two room flat. It certainly doesn’t fly with Stanley, an unrefined and crude man who isn’t past mentally and physically abusing his pregnant wife. Cara McKelvey’s Stella is a woman stuck between a rock and a hard place- deeply in love with her man, yet sympathetic to her sister’s fragile condition.

Alex Alessandro Garcia has the physical attributes to play Stanley’s bully. He barks and sneers his contempt for Blanche. His character has the least depth however, and comes across mainly as a foil for the true dynamic here- the interplay between the sisters.

The claustrophobic environment created by Scenic Designer Steve Coleman fits with the sweltering and emotionally charged atmosphere created by lack of privacy and lack of boundaries. Jan Kaprowski does a fine job with the costuming; Blanche’s faded beauty illustrated with yesteryear’s dresses, Stanley’s iconic white undershirts and Stella’s drab housefrau garb.

Cara McKelvey (Stella Kowalski), Hilary Hesse (Blanche DuBois),  Photo credit: Matt Shelton.

Cara McKelvey (Stella Kowalski), Hilary Hesse (Blanche DuBois), Photo credit: Matt Shelton.

Director Julie Dimas-Lockfield clearly places our sympathies on Blanche. Who couldn’t empathize with the down on her luck Blanche? Yes, she insults her sister and her husband, yes she takes too much time in the bathtub and perhaps is a bit of a lush. But she certainly doesn’t deserve the animosity and torment inflicted by Stanley. Hesse looks as delicate as the lace Blanche wears, there’s a frailty and hopelessness about her as she skillfully breathes Williams delicious dialogue.

Williams has created a tragic look into the lives of women in the 1940’s, decades before feminism evolved. The three women characters in Streetcar, Blanche, Stella and upstairs neighbor Eunice Hubbell (in a nice performance by Meira Perelstein) are all trapped in their circumstances, making the most of the meager lot in life. The men, either perpetrators or male stereotypes fare no better in this great universal drama.

Performances run June 16th through October 29, 2016. www.sheltontheater.org  415.882.9100