Reviewer: Elizabeth Detloff
Venue: Pit and Balcony Theatre
Season ninety-two aptly themed desires & disasters proved with the opening play that it would be delivering both. Seats in our lovely community theater filled in the fading summer warmth. Did the audience know it would be taken on an emotional journey that would leave them questioning if clapping was the correct response to the scenes witnessed.
The audience is dropped right into the storyline, making you feel as if you might be missing information. It does not take long to get swept up into the characters being introduced into each other’s lives. Lives that they pretend are perfect, but slowly fall apart throughout the next two and a half hours.
Each character is played in a dramatic fashion but main character Blanche Debois takes the cake. Scarlett Cunninham has us on an emotional roller coaster with her hysterics. She goes from throwing herself prostrate to waxing poetic. It gets to the point where we want to shout “enough!” She then returns to normal as if nothing has happened, leaving the audience wondering if they were the ones overreacting the whole time. Blanche’s gradual descent into delusion is so minute and nuanced that you almost think she is sane at the end.
With so much happening on stage you can jump from the storyline happening in the bedroom, to the one still taking place in the kitchen. Be careful you might get whiplash from trying to catch everything going on at the same time. The actors excelled at conveying a range of emotions often without speaking words at all. Just their facial expressions gave way to what was hiding under the surface, and what would come bubbling up over the next two acts.
Vintage attire and set displays were perfectly matched to the era of the play. I found I could not take my eyes off the gorgeous hanging lamp shade. It was suspended over a part of the stage where a lot of ugliness was about to take place. Stage crew was quick and professional in their set turn over between scenes.
It is a credit to actor Matt Kehoe, who plays Stanley Kowaslki. He has the audience almost empathetic to his plight. Even though it is revealed he is not a good guy, and goes from not good to a lot worse by the last act. I went into the play knowing the arc of the character, and still I was rooting for him a little bit. We witness Stanley, and every character pushed to their breaking point and what happens when they cross over that point.
The cast had no problem dropping witty lines at just the right times. In act one several southern insults had the audience chuckling. The humor was harder to find as the acts kept on, and it was completely gone by the time the stage lights dimmed for the last time. The humor was in the facade every character delivers in the beginning, and by the end it has worn away to reveal uglier parts of human nature.
The audience will get lost in the fantastical delusions of Blanche. And you want to believe that she will be redeemed. By the end the audience realizes that there are just no good guys on this stage, no heroes, no saviors. It is not that kind of play. The kind of play it is, is one of great emotional depth and heavy subject matter. The play glimpses into the world of domestic violence, rape, and abuse. This may be heavy for a weekend play but also necessary to shine a light on all facets of the human experience. Not just the ones that make you “feel good”.
Pit and Balcony was prepared with resources in the lobby for anyone who may have struggled with issues brought up on stage. There was even an extra intermission which gave the audience ample breathing space between acts.
My suggestion is to research the subject matter of this play. If you enjoy Pit and Balcony then there is desire and heartbreaking disaster waiting for you in this show. Streetcar plays at Pit and Balcony September 15-17th and the 22-24th.