Rites of passage
Sutter Creek’s A Streetcar Named Desire smolders but doesn’t burn
Whenever Tennessee Williams beckons, this reviewer must follow; and this time out, the famed Southern playwright led me to an Art Deco gem, the historic Sutter Creek Theatre, in—you guessed it—Sutter Creek, located about 50 minutes outside of downtown Sacramento. The play, A Streetcar Named Desire, is Williams’ mammoth 1947 gift to the world, telling the story of faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois’ search for a safe harbor and her inevitable snuffing out at the hands of her bestial brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Since its first staging, Streetcar has been a theater staple worldwide, winning all the big-name prizes, from the Pulitzer to the Donaldson. In 1951, Elia Kazan recast the play as a film, making an instant star of Marlon Brando and bringing Vivien Leigh back to celluloid as a much different strain of Southern beauty.
For this production, Main Street Theatre Works has imported a number of players that Sacramento area theatergoers will recognize from the Actor’s Theatre: Scott Devine (Of Mice and Men, Hamlet) generates a fair amount of heat—despite the occasional Brando posturing—as Stanley, Janice Jones (Of Mice and Men) is convincing as Stella, the tennis ball that the “terriers” (her sister and husband) fight for control over, and Myron Davis Jr. (Hamlet, Looking for Richard III) plays macho man Steve nicely. As the lost and dreamy Blanche, Cynthia Burdick has the necessary sense of delusion, if not the sensuality and mania, of her character down.
While the cast is uniformly solid, I found it both disconcerting and disheartening that they were forced to race through their lines, not pausing to savor the delicious poetry of Williams’ words. Additionally, I found the interlude music and jazz vocals used between scenes to be both intrusive and destructive to the dramatic pace of the play. But these are minor points compared to the glory and power of the play, which just can’t be stopped. And I’d recommend the trip to the darling, retro town of Sutter Creek to all of my fellow theater lovers.