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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Streetcar’ gives captivating ride

There is a scene in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in which the character of Blanche emphatically states, “I don’t want realism, I want magic.” Audiences feel the same way when they go to the theatre. They want to leave the reality of their own lives and enter into an illusion where an intoxicating blend of acting, scenery, sound and lighting compel the mind and invigorate the senses. Luckily, audiences do not have to look any further than right here on campus to partake in such a magical atmosphere.

Mitchell Theatre’s presentation of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is a captivating journey enriched by a heartrending story and highlighted by an entire ensemble of dynamic performances. Director Norma Saldivar takes the genius behind Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play and masterfully brings it to the stage to create an all-around gratifying experience.

“We have tried to stay as true to the original play as possible,” said Stephanie Monday, who plays Blanche in the production. “I think we ‘tell the story’ and tell it well.”


In “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Williams takes his audience back to the steamy, urban setting of 1940s New Orleans where Blanche (Monday), an older, yet still attractive Southern belle, has just arrived to stay with her younger sister Stella Kowalski (Clare Arena Haden). There is a clear culture clash between Blanche’s Old South ideals and the industrial, immigrant class beliefs of Stella’s husband Stanley (David Wilson-Brown). This collision course results in numerous tumultuous situations that include Stella and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch (Steve Wojtas).

From this stems a recurring theme in the play — the idea of illusion versus reality. Blanche uses her imagination to mask her dark secrets and tells things as she thinks they should be, not as they really are.

“This does not mean though that she is not cognizant of the reality around her, she just chooses to look away or changes it to suit her own need to survive,” Monday said.

Blanche’s illusionary way of life greatly contrasts with the realistic approach taken by Stanley.

“Stanley is very methodical in finding what is really there,” Wilson-Brown said. “He is a great poker player in the way that he does not show his cards until he knows he is going to win.”

This gripping tension between Blanche and Stanley and the explosive aftermath that results from it are what drive this play. But this production would have been reduced to a standstill had it not been for the exceptional performances of the cast.

Haden is marvelous in her passionate approach to portraying the agony Stella faces as a result of being torn between her sister and her husband.

“I never judge the characters I am playing, but try to come from a place of understanding,” Haden said. “I bring a part of myself to it; that is what makes it unique from anyone else who has done the role.”

Her take on the role results in a character that is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Similarly spirited is the role of Stanley, which has always been a tricky one thanks to Marlon Brando’s iconic portrayal in the original production of the play.

“I studied other actors in the role, like Brando and Alec Baldwin, and noticed that they all brought something different to the character.” Wilson-Brown said. “But Williams gives so much language in his work that I was able to find out about the character and then personalize it.”

What results is a vibrant performance by Wilson-Brown that effectively encapsulates the true essence of the character. He portrays Stanley as not just a brute, but as a man who protects what he has. At the same time, he commands the stage with such intensity that chills run down the spine when, in an authoritative demonstration of anger, he chucks a dinner plate into the kitchen wall. Wilson-Brown even occasionally adds a little humor to the role with the timing of his short remarks.

But the most credit goes to Monday for taking on the challenging role of Blanche and succeeding admirably. She superbly portrays a refined and delicate woman who is flawed by her perpetual panic about her fading beauty and dependence on male sexual approval for self-esteem. Monday’s effectiveness in chronicling the collapse of Blanche’s self-image and sanity was crucial in driving home the play’s theme.

Nonetheless, Monday wisely insures that her character stays hopeful no matter what she suffers through.

“The danger of playing Blanche is to allow her neurosis to take over,” Monday said. “But by having her expect that something better is always just outside of her grasp allows the audience to empathize with her as opposed to merely pitying her.”

While there are a few occurrences where the dialogue tends to drag on, the remarkable use of sound and lighting keeps the theater engaged at all times. It is the simple few notes of a polka tune or the change from warm lighting to dark at just the right moment that give this play an extra kick.

The costume and scenic design add a final artistic touch to this well-rounded masterpiece. The practical, everyday clothing of Stella and Stanley perfectly contrasts the showy grandeur of Blanche’s costume. The scenery is an intricate and realistic representation of the New Orleans ambience during this time period.

Director Norma Saldivar’s rendition of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is easily a riveting and dramatic work of art worth seeing. She brings together all the crucial elements to a theatrical production to entrance the audience.

Haden described it best when she said, “Every single element of the play and every single person that worked on it made it what it is … a very special night of theatre.”


“A Streetcar Named Desire” runs through May 3 at the Mitchell Theatre. Visit for information about tickets and showtimes.

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