Opening Nights: A Streetcar Named Desire and Scarrie

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Union Garage; ends Sat., Dec. 6 The trouble with staging Tennessee Williams' humid classic, of course, is that people can still feel the heat from its most famous incarnation. Even those who haven't even seen the iconic 1951 film version can probably imitate Marlon Brando's sweaty howl for "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" It remains a great and necessary play, however, and there are any number of ways around that burden, so you'll excuse me for suggesting that director JD Lloyd has chosen the wrong approach by pulling a blitzkrieg on Williams and bombing the text into submission. Lloyd seems to have convinced his actors that if they bullet through their delivery, dryly gunning past the languid, dripping rhythms of Williams' poetry, we'll have no chance to compare their work to their more famous predecessors. The result is that this Theatre Babylon production has little resemblance to Streetcar at allthe legendary lines are here, all right, but they don't feel connected to anything of importance. The show is bereft of its brooding Southern heritage. If anything, the ensemble of this particular New Orleans comes across like a lot of noisy Northerners, slightly irritated by the idea that they have to talk so flowery. That's disappointing, because a couple of its cast members are made of solid stuff. Brad Cook is a real go-getter of an actor he also designed the accomplished set hereand would probably make a great Jim, the Gentleman Caller of The Glass Menagerie. Unfortunately, he isn't giving us much of anything as Stanley Kowalski, the beastly man-of-the-house temporarily usurped by a visiting sister-in-law clinging to her last vestiges of Beauty. Lloyd hasn't brought out of Cook any of the "brutal desire" that binds the Kowalskis (Skye Howell Henley's flaccid wife Stella doesn't help), nor any of the slouchy erotic menace that should electrify Stanley's relationship with the ever-posturing Blanche (Teri Lazzara Mathews): When Cook's Stanley tells Ms. DuBois, pre-rape, that they've "had this date with each other from the beginning," it comes as news to us. Mathews could've been quite touchingshe's fetchingly fragile and has flickers of sensitivity to the materialbut, again, she's lost without guidance, delivering most of her big speeches as though she thinks Blanche is awfully verbose. (We won't even go into the Jackie Gleason-ish destruction that Cory Nealy has wreaked upon Blanche's mild-mannered suitor, Mitch.) Ironically, the uniformly hurried pace of the players is so out of touch with the text that it makes the evening feel longer or, as Blanche puts it, like one of those nights "when an hour isn't just an hour, but a little bit of eternity dropped in your hand." STEVE WIECKING SCARRIE

JewelBox Theater at the Rendezvous; through mid-December. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to call BS on this camp salute to Brian DePalma's Stephen King film adaptation. Our easy affection for an established cult classic is being whored here, and it's just as much a shame as it was when Point Break, the Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze actioner, got an extended run for its shoddy, spoofy theater version a few months ago. Sure, you'll laugh a few timesthe crime is that the show doesn't try harder to earn it. DePalma's soft-core, operatic affectations are initially hit head-on, and it's a hoot: The night opens with a bunch of hormonal teenage girls in high-school P.E., grunting unsubtly as they each take a sensual, slow-motion whack at an imaginary volleyball; they move to the showers, where everybody strips down to ridiculous, flesh-colored body stockings and scrubs hard until poor telekinetic Carrie (Heather Hughes) experiences that time of the month. This is what should've continued to happen in the showwild underlining and ironic boldfacing of everything that is waiting to be made fun of in the material. But that never really happens againthe thing is a mess of missed opportunities. Director Mark Gallagher often has great taste for projects but doesn't seem to know what to do once he gets his hands on them. You can thank him for bringing Hedwig and the Angry Inch to Re-bar; you can also thank him for not doing much but tossing it at megawatt performer Nick Garrison. The ideal cast here is similarly left to its own devices, not helped by ineffectual original songs and a script by Ryan Landry that seems barely there. Yes, this just wants to be scrappy fun, but even low comedy takes hard work. The divine Hughes' voluptuously nerdy, unbridled riff on Sissy Spacek is bursting with possibilities; Carrie's nutty prom dance with dream-date Tommy (Daniel) reminds you of that great Gilda Radner/Steve Martin duet to "Dancing in the Dark" on Saturday Night Live. But Hughes otherwise spends the evening waiting for something worthy of her comic generosity. Betsy Morris matches Hughes' untapped talents as Chris, Carrie's main tormentorher petulant bitchery is delicious, but she's stuck doing scattershot improv. Same goes for Brandon White, giving all he's got as Carrie's cuckoo mom. This supple trio may successfully strong-arm the show as the run progresses, but for now the comedy is catch-as-catch-can. At $17, the joke's on you. S.W. info@seattleweekly.com

 
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