“A Streetcar Named Desire” gets off at 6th Street in Santa Rosa and pays a visit to 6th Street Playhouse’s Studio. Director Phoebe Moyer expressed some of the many challenges presenting such a well-known play “which can sometimes create audience expectations, so the actors must constantly explore the motivations of their characters in order to create believable and empathetic portrayals.” The actors do exactly this: they produce credible people who operate within their own frames of emotion and intellect.
Ariel Zuckerman avoids the Marlon Brando stereotype as he makes Stanley Kowalski real, life-like. This Stanley can be loud and physical but also sensitive and child-like, but never an exaggerated caricature of a cave man. This Stanley believes in what he does, whether he is protecting his war buddy, Mitch, from being used by the manipulative Blanche or is expressing remorse for hurting his wife, Stella. Zuckerman tempers rather than hyperbolizes his variety of emotions creating a plausible balance.
Deservedly so, Juliet Noonan received a long standing ovation on opening night for her fine interpretation of Blanche. Deception, a refined art considered by Blanche to be a necessary asset for any woman, combined with neurasthenia called for subtle craft by Noonan. As the deception breaks down, Blanche’s nervous affliction evolves into a psychotic break, and Noonan skillfully delivers this shift of character.
Blanche’s sister Stella, performed by Melissa Claire, must be protective of Blanche and yet independent of her once aristocratic Southern family. Claire pulls this off throughout the play as she is sensitive to the needs of her sister and her husband while she works to fulfill her own needs. Claire’s best interpretation of Stella appears in the final scene of the play as she faces an inevitable conflict.
A unique detail about one actor: Edward McCloud, who plays Mitch, once played Stanley. While Mitch and Stanley are best friends, they have opposites personalities: Mitch lacks confidence and is soft-spoken; Stanley is loud, boisterous and is sure about every aspect of his life. McCloud delivers the large, awkward, bumbling Mitch that Tennessee Williams created.
The third couple in the play, Steve and Eunice, played by Matt Farrell and Laura Downing-Lee, provide some comic relief but also some sensitivity which serves nicely as a foil to the main couples. Benjamin Donner, a recent Montgomery High graduate, played the perfect naïve collector who shyly copes with Blanche’s advances. Kevin Pryne, Dayheem Naderi and Mary DeLorenzo all debuted at 6th Street Playhouse in their supporting roles.
While the story of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is timeless, this production maintained the play as a period piece. The icebox, the radio and the phone help to establish the setting as late 1940s. The spiral staircase, the horizontal slated windows and the dressing screen come right out of the stage directions. Conor Woods’ scenic design defied the limitations of the small space. With the help of lighting designer Ellen Brooks, costume designer Gail Reine and sound designer Billie Cox, Director Moyer’s concern for technical components, “Lights, props, sound and costume must work together to create an authentic experience,” did happen. Everything blended well with the wonderful acting to produce a memorable rendition of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
There will be eleven more performances of this play. Evening shows will be every Fri. and Sat. through Feb. 16, plus a Valentine’s Day special showing Thurs., Feb. 14, all beginning at 7:30 p.m. There will three Sun. matinees beginning at 2 p.m. Feb. 3, 10th and 17. Tickets are available at 6thstreetplayhouse.com or by calling the box office at (707) 523-4185, extension 1.