Guthrie’s “Streetcar” is STELLAAA(r)

The ambitious interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ Brando-tinged classic drives its message home with impressive acting

Mark Brenden

âÄúA Streetcar Named DesireâÄù by Tennesse Williams Director: John Miller-Stephany Starring: Ricardo Antonio Chavira, Stacia Rice, Gretchen Egolf Where: The Guthrie Theater, Wurtele Thrust Stage, 818 S. 2nd St. When: Runs through August 29 Price: $24-60 If you are going to dig your hands on hallowed theatrical ground âÄî like that of Tennessee WilliamsâÄô trenchant opus âÄúA Streetcar Named DesireâÄù âÄî youâÄôd best be sure of two things. One, you must present a unique interpretation; two, you better not mess it up. Fortunately, Miller-StephanyâÄôs âÄúStreetcarâÄù is a stirring rendition, staying steadfast to WilliamsâÄô vision for the play. Miller-Stephany said he accomplished this by reading deep into the dust-coated Williams archives, uncovering the playwrightâÄôs most intimate writings on the play, and by respectfully dismissing its clout. âÄúI think you have to forget that it is a classic,âÄù Miller-Stephany said, âÄúand concentrate on making the story live with the specific actors and that specific creative team and for the Minnesota audience in 2010.âÄù The play is set in 1940s New Orleans, wherein Stanley Kowalski (Chavira) and Stella Kowalski (Rice) are surprised to see the latterâÄôs lavishly delusional sister Blanche DuBois (Egolf) has come on the local streetcar named Desire to take a mysterious exile in their two-bedroom apartment. Tension emerges between the two iconic characters Blanche, a waning artifact of the Old South, and Stanley, a strong and cocky representative of the new working class. To play Stanley Kowalski after he has been cemented into the American lexicon under the name Marlon Brando is to wear the number 23 jersey in the United Center . But Chavira is able to transcend and, in vintage Williams fashion, endure these odds. His interpretation of the short-tempered humdinger is less Brando as it is Robert Banner: a bothered macho man ready to explode at any time. âÄú[Chavira] has not seen the film and has never seen a production of the play before,âÄù Miller-Stephany said. âÄúI think that is a great strength … He is coming at it from a fresh place. He is not haunted by any ghosts of any prior performances.âÄù Another glaring highlight of the play is EgolfâÄôs chilling portrayal of the infinitely complex Blanche DuBois. Egolf steals every scene, whether itâÄôs busting guts with her Southern charm or paralyzing eyes with her maniacal hallucinations. Although the GuthrieâÄôs upper-tier price range can easily scare off members of our collegiate, Ramen noodle demographic, Miller-Stephany said the play should beckon anyone old enough to stomach a little mature content to hear WilliamsâÄô resonating message. âÄúThereâÄôs a lesson in this play to be learned about tolerance and understanding,âÄù Miller-Stephany said. âÄúI donâÄôt think thatâÄôs a lesson specifically for college students âÄî I think itâÄôs across the board. It makes a plea for us to be a little more understanding of our fellow human beings.âÄù