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Review: Nashville Rep Brings Back a Classic with Streetcar

Tennessee Williams' American classic, "A Streetcar Named Desire," is onstage at Nashville Rep through Sunday, Feb. 23. It's worth a visit!

Nashville Rep presents:
A Streetcar Named Desire
Feb. 6 – 23, 2020; Ages 14 & older
TPAC's Johnson Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 |
Showtimes: Thu – Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 & 7:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m.
$25 – $60

Kudos to Nashville Rep for including a true gem of classic American theater in its 35th season with its current production of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire. Nashville audiences don't get nearly enough exposure to the works of great playwrights such as Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee, Thornton Wilder and George Kaufman, to name a few. So it's certainly a feather in Nashville Rep's cap to mount Williams' most popular work, giving local theater patrons the experience of a classic.

Streetcar is undeniably one of those plays that everyone should see because of its significance — the play itself and Williams' writing is a masterpiece given its poetic, illuminating writing and its dynamic characters of Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski. Keeping in mind the play's time period of 1947, it's one of those plays that requires a great amount of caution if a company is going to tinker with it.

Colorblind casting is popular in the theater community these days, and there are several shows where it works well. When it comes to a classic like Streetcar, though, that decision can become a head-scratcher. Nashville Rep cast black actress Tamiko Robinson Steele to play Stella — she is an amazing talent who does a fantastic job playing her role. However, the idea of both an interracial marriage and sibling scenario in the 1940's American South isn't authentic to Williams' work. Nashville Rep presents the classic version of Williams' play, so it creates a bit of a hurdle in regard to preserving the work in its original form. The casting choice here would make more sense if the Rep shifted the play's time period into a contemporary era.

Tamiko Robinson Steele as Stella and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby as Stanley
in Nashville Rep's "A Streetcar Named Desire."

That aside, Nashville Rep presents a mostly solid production. Steele delivers a steady portrayal of vulnerable Stella throughout the show, and Eric D. Pasto-Crosby serves up an intense version of drunken, violent Stanley, evoking the savage qualities of man.

Karen Sternberg makes her Nashville Rep debut playing central figure Blanche DuBois, the Southern Belle who's lost everything and desperately aims to hold onto her last shred of sanity and refinement. While Sternberg delivers strong pockets of her character's loneliness, isolation and desperation with an underlying self-destructiveness, a more concerted directorial push by Nat McIntyre would help the audience fully follow and be pulled into Blanche's mental deterioration into full-blown insanity.

It's unfortunate that one of the play's pivotal scenes is rushed through — the brawl between Stanley and Blanche that results in her rape. The end of that scene is void of the sheer brutality that it needs. It's too quiet in the dark — perhaps some of the incidental music could have provided intensity. The moment whisks past and the result is anticlimactic.

The Southern dialect among the cast also poses an issue. There's a wobbly attempt in Act I, and by the time Act II rolls around it's pretty much non-existent. Again, since this production yields the classic version of the play, having the language intact is important to fully uphold Williams' work — not to mention we're in the South.

Gary Hoff's impeccable set design captures Stanley and Stella's run-down two-bedroom New Orleans apartment where all the drama unfolds.

Despite a few directorial and interpretive glitches, all of the actors serve up dramatic moments making Nashville Rep's A Streetcar Named Desire a good production worth a visit to experience Williams' definitive work.


Featured photo: Karen Sternberg as Blanche DuBois.

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