“Streetcar” Stops At Writers’ Theatre

The cast of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” tear up the stage in a new production of this drama at Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre.

The performance, directed by David Cromer, is packed with raw emotion and sexual energy, but at the same time is tender, painful and even beautiful.

From the minute Natasha Lowe appears as Blanche DuBois, wandering into her sister Stella’s cramped apartment in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1947, we feel this vulnerable heroine’s personal tragedy and loss.

As Blanche reveals the sad, sordid story of her life, Lowe makes her more and more sympathetic. And when she departs, on the arm of a man who treats her with courtesy and kindness, the tears that glisten in the eyes of Mitch, her one-time suitor, become our own.

Lowe, with her pale skin and slim figure is ever the fragile character, desperate now that her youth is gone and her family’s plantation home has been foreclosed. Both fierce and fearful by turns, she inhabits her character completely.

Stacy Stoltz plays her sister and gives depth to the durable Stella. After seeing the younger sister’s contentment with her life, we watch her being crushed by the conflict between her high-strung sister and her brute of a husband, Stanley.

Matt Hawkins has that coveted role and he enthusiastically embraces Blanche’s description of him as “sub human” and “a survivor of the Stone Age.”  The play is being performed on Writers’ Tudor Court stage, is small. So Hawkins’ frequent shouting, including his emblematic “Stella” is ear shattering. Be prepared, as he frequently erupts in anger and the initial fight scene is jarring, not only because of its brutality, but because the audience is so close to the stage.

Competing this circle of unhappy souls is Mitch, a poker-playing pal of Stanley’s, played by Danny McCarthy. Unmarried and caring for his ailing mother, he takes a shine to Blanche, but rejects her when he learns of her past. McCarthy’s emphasizes Mitch’s decency and humanity, which makes his departure especially sad.

In the supporting cast Jenn Engstrom stands out as Eunice Hubbell, the upstairs neighbor, with a loud voice and a pretty good heart.

The set, designed by Collette Pollard, includes a crowded bedroom, a kitchen with a yellow Formica and steel dinette set, and an offstage bathroom. It aptly conveys the claustrophobic nature of the characters’ lives, and a low ceiling contributes to the sense of being, in Blanche’s words, “trapped.”

The show is about two and a half hours and has two intermissions. It is impossible not to enter into the lives of these well-crafted characters, which guarantees that by the end, you will probably be emotionally exhausted. Still this “Streetcar” provides a journey you won’t forget.

The show runs through August 15. For information, visit www.writerstheatre.org or call 847-242-6000.