Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is now playing (through Mar. 25) at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. I had the pleasure to attend last weekend; my first time at Boston Court, and totally recommend it.
Director Michael Michetti has re-envisioned the play with a multicultural cast and in a modern setting to allow for the themes of class, race, and gender to pop out and give the play a present-day relevance. Audiences were shocked 70 years ago when A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE first opened. Perhaps Tennessee Williams would be the one surprised today if he got to see his play at Boston Court, presented as it is by a thoroughly diverse group of actors, of all races and sexual orientations.
In A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Blanche (played beautifully at Boston Court by Jaimi Paige) is a rich white woman that falls out of luck and must live with her sister in a neighborhood that she’s not used to someplace in New Orleans. Michetti has reinterpreted Blanche as a woman who “represents the last desperate cries of privilege,” he said, and places her in a world where everyone is different than her; people who are not afraid to speak their minds. Her inability to adapt to the new society surrounding her becomes her demise.
African American actor Desean Kevin Terry (graduate of Juilliard School, by the way) plays Stanley and delivers these poignant words in the play:
“I am not a Pollack. People from Poland are Poles. They are not Pollacks. But what I am is one hundred percent American. I’m born and raised in the greatest country on this earth and I’m proud of it. And don’t you ever call me Pollack.”
It takes no time for the audience to understand that “Pollack” here can stand for any of those words that intolerant people use to insult others. The lines also underscore the definition of being an American. And this is what this production accomplishes best: to turn what for years had been known as a “Southern Gothic play” into one that feels current and relevant.
Additionally, the play has a fantastic sound design by Sam Sewell, a young, energetic, sound designer, a recent graduate from the California Institute of the Arts, who has been working as Sound Supervisor for years at the Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, MA. She adds fantastic music choices to the performance, at times complemented by Paul Outlaw’s singing.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at Boston Court is about three hours long with a 15-minute intermission. There is a concessions bar in the lobby with sweet and savory snacks and beverages, all at $2. (If you ask me, this is another fantastic feature of this theater.)
The play is performed in the Main Stage (a 99-seat venue) Thursdays to Sundays through Mar. 25. Tickets are available at BostonCourt.com, ranging $20 to $39. You can also call (626) 683-6801 for tickets. The theater is located at 70 N. Mentor Avenue, in Pasadena 91106. Boston Court is a non-profit organization.
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