Southern Discomfort

HARVARD THEATER:

A Streetcar Named Desire

Written by Tennessee Williams

Drirected by Jason Rosencranz

At the Leverett House Old Library

This weekend and next

SOMETIMES drama is best when it's left alone. Without outrageous special effects. Without inventive perversions of the text or fanciful staging--just the unwatered-down work done exactly as the author intended it to be.

The Leverett House rendition of A Streetcar NamedDesire is just such a production. It takes Tennessee William's brilliant story of a fallen woman and lets it breathe. And since the director and performers don't waste their time developing clever twists or constructing fancy sets, they are able to concentrate on the dramatic subtleties. Most people are familiar with Streetcar's plot turns, and Rosencranz focuses on bringing out the intimate details of the bitter relationship between blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski.

When Blanche (Ellen Bledsoe) comes to New Orleans on a "temporary" visit to her sister Stella (Holly Cate)--whom she has ignored for several years--the situation is not a pretty one. Blanche seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and the change of climate from Laurel, Mississippi to New Orleans squalor does her no good. And when she meets her brother-in-law Stanley (Andrew Gardner), a tough and muscular man who instantly sees through her pretense, things get even rougher.

Streetcaris a psychological drama of immense power, and Rosencranz's cast manages to bring that power to the stage. As the audience grows accustomed to the drama's Southern drawl, it begins to hear the sharp undertones of the seemingly ordinary lives on stage. Few Harvard productions could sustain audience interest for three hours, but with a stellar Stanley and provocative Blanche, the Leverett production actually gains in interest.

Bledsoe, though stalky in appearance, manages to conjure up the mannerisms of a femme fatale. She wafts through the simple cot-table-and-chair set which is the Kowalski apartment, making eyes at all the men, convincing as the woman of loose conduct but high morals. And if Bledsoe occasionally falters on lines, that's understandable considering the number she has to work with.

Gardner makes the perfect Stanley. He's certainly got the physique for it, but he's also got the charm down pat. After all, if Stanley's such a boor, why would anyone fall-and remain-madly in love with him? Gardner answers that question by making himself attractive and intelligent underneath the uncouth veneer. Ethan Mintz as a friend of Stanley's who falls in love with Blanche is equally superb, though his accent is practically nonexistent.

As Stella, Cate may not have as developed a part as Bledsoe, but also does not aim at a strong performance. At the most serious moments, her voice tremors as if she were going to laugh. She also overdoes the sentimentality of the part, falling into Stanley's arms in a way more appropriate to a soap opera than to high-class drama.

Rosencranz's Streetcar is seristuff. The director and cast make a classic play seem as timely today as when it was first produced.