Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, which is conceivably the best and certainly the most famous American play to have been written since the war, has finally arrived at Harvard. It formed the first production of the newly-organized Dudley House Dramatic Society, and it seems to promise that the commuter's center will make a considerable contribution to the bourgeoning drama renaissance at the University.
However, while the Society's energy and enthusiasm deserves nothing but applause, their choice of a vehicle for their entry into the local scene is open to some question. Certainly Streetcar, Williams' most successful exploration of Southern degenaracy to date, is a popular play, but this very fact brings in its wake a number of problems. For one thing, though the play has not been staged right here before, it has received a good many recent productions, and comparison thus becomes inevitable. For another, it has become pretty thoroughly identified with the ultra-naturalistic school of acting developed by Elia Kazan and the Actors' Studio in New York, one graduate of which is the play's original star, Marlon Brando. The reasons for this identification are more than a historical accident--Williams had the school's work in mind when he wrote his drama.
Both points are clearly not unknown to the director of the present production, Frederick J. Marker, and to his actors, but not all of them are able to take the necessary countermeasure, which is to seek a new and personal interpretation whenever possible. Very fortunately one of them does; Lisa Rosenfarb, in the role of Blanche DuBois, the once-genteel nymphomaniac who finally ends up in a mental institution after she is raped by her brutish brother-in-law. Miss Rosenfarb dominates the play with a generally skillful exposition of the woman's confusion in the midst of a new world which she is not equipped to understand. Her only difficulty--on the whole a minor one--is to make Blanche quite as pitiful as she should be.
Harvey L. White, who plays the brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, gives a somewhat less successful performance. In his speech and movements he remains all too content to imitate Brando, which inevitably results in a rather blurred picture of Kowalski. Eugene Bell, as Blanche's sometime suitor Mitch, suffers from from a similar difficulty. Mitch should be a little less the hulking animal and a little more a confused young man. Clare Fooshee, on the other hand, makes a fairly effective if somewhat too motherly wife for Kowalski.
Agassiz Theater contributed its share of difficulties to the production. The stage is rather small for a set which needs to represent two rooms and a porch, and the lighting equipment is barely adequate. As a result the director and his designer, Alfred Kaufman, were forced to stage a few scenes in such a manner that the furniture partially obscured the actors. But the set did have appropriately grubby appearance of a house in a poor section of New Orleans.
Despite the only partial success of Streetcar, the Dudley group is a welcome addition to drama at Harvard. With a more cautious choice of a play for its second production, it should be able to establish itself firmly.