Review: “A Streetcar Named Desire” on Broadway

Published by Clay Cane on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:15 am.

(Photo: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)

A multiracial production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway at the legendary Broadhurst Theatre on Sunday night.  Starring Blair Underwood in the iconic role of Stanley, which was made famous by Marlon Brando, Streetcar is directed by Emily Mann, who was behind Cat on a Hit Tin Roof on Broadway. In an interview with BET.com, Mann, who knew Mr. Williams, explained it was a dream of the legendary playwright to see a multiracial version of his work. Williams would certainly be proud of the remix given to his Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

Along with Underwood as Stanley, there is the consistently fabulous Daphne Rubin-Vega as Stella. Stella is devoted to her husband, Stanley, but struggling with the conflict he has with her sister, Blanche DuBois — passionately delivered by Nicole Ari ParkerWood Harris of The Wire is DuBois’s love interest, who shows his range as an actor. The polished cast breathed fresh life into Williams’s characters, smoothly relying on the cultural bearings of the African-American experience, but never resorting to stereotypes.

The entire cast had their shining moments, but it was Nicole Ari Parker who gave the most intense performance of her career. Blanche DuBois is no easy task and Boris Kodjoe’s significant other ripped fire into DuBois. Furthermore, Parker, who has an acting degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, is making her Broadway debut with Streetcar — her portrayal of Blanche looks like the work of a Broadway veteran. As I was leaving the theater, the main commentary was: “Nicole Ari Parker deserves a Tony nomination!”

A Streetcar Named Desire is another example of the needed diversity on Broadway. It can be an arduous journey to get people of color on the Broadway stage, and even when we see ourselves on the Great White Way, the production is often scrutinized with a microscope. Thankfully, Streetcar can handle the scrutiny.  From the superb direction of Emily Mann to the beautiful music from Terence Blanchard, if you are a fan of sophisticated, intellectual theater — with a strong helping of comic relief — you will not be disappointed.

A Streetcar Named Desire is currently playing at the Broadhurst Theatre.

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