At the Odyssey: Strong Streetcar Named Desire Reminds Us of Williams' Genius

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Come for the set (a magnificent two-story structure designed by Joel Daavid) and stay for the performance of Dance On’s production of a Tennessee Williams masterpiece now onstage at the Odyssey Theatre Complex. The strong ensemble illustrates the bones of Williams’ post-war evocation of New Orleans’ French quarter. Marlon Brando notwithstanding, among other joys, this rendition features a uniquely conceived characterization of Stanley by Max E. Williams.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure seeing this play, or the well-wrought 1951 movie, Streetcar brings a fragile Blanche Du Bois (Susan Priver) to her sister’s doorstep in the quarter.  She and her sister, Stella (Melissa Sullivan), represent the last of plantation aristocracy.  Notoriously frivolous, Blanche “lost” the stately property and had to live in a boarding house until she was run out of town under murky circumstances. On the other hand, Stella has given up any aristocratic airs, living in a run-down, one-bedroom apartment with Stanley, whose existence seems to revolve around work, card games with the boys . . . and Stella.

This production reinforces Tennessee Williams’ ability to reach beyond the day-to-day minutia of life to reach into the hearts of his characters. Yet, the ensemble finds new ways to breathe life into these unique personas. Of note, find a down-to-earth Stella, an equally practical upstairs neighbor, Eunice (Caroline O’Brien), and a suitably stalwart suitor, Mitch (Christopher Parker). Priver has absorbed the right cues to bring Blanche to life, but starts on such a brittle, high-note that it leaves no room for her final dissolution.

Director Jack Heller’s conceptualization promotes a riskier atmosphere with which to witness Blanche’s disintegration. With a nod to Tennessee’s known proclivities, Heller interposes an improvisation that helps situate the story to the subversive nature of the French Quarter during the time Williams lived there. He also integrates the many dimensions of the setting to create fluid motion for a cinematic effect.

Along the way, the production gains from beautiful costuming by Shon LeBlanc, atmospheric lighting by Derrick McDaniel, and cool jazz from sound designer, Christopher Moscatiello.  Nor can we forget the contributions of fight choreographer Matt Franta, or movement from Cate Caplin.  It is a beautiful revival, lovingly produced by Dance On!

Streetcar Named Desire performs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm through July 7th at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets: $25.00 to $40.00.  Phone OvationTix at 866-811-4111 or online at www.Ovationtix.com.