Review: A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (the ballet)

by Lynn on June 10, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Choreography, Costumes Set and Lighting by John Neumeier
Staged by John Neumeier, Tamas Detrich and Laura Cazzaniga
Music by Sergei Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke

NOTE: For a brilliant review read Martha Schabas in the Globe and Mail. I’m just commenting on the look, sweep, emotion and visceral wallop of this piece.

This production is astonishing in its realization of Tennessee Williams’ play about a fragile-minded, faded belle and her descent into madness.

Choreographer, John Neumeier begins his story in the mental asylum where Blanche Dubois (Jurgita Dronina) has just arrived. She sits on a bed, her suitcase rests on the head of the bed. She stares blankly out us.

She is haunted by memories of her marriage when she found her husband Allan (Spencer Hack) in the arms of another man with fatal consequences. Her loneliness drives her to easy sex with men in hotels. That finally pushes her to go to New Orleans and be with her sister Stella (Emma Hawes) and her husband Stanley (Harrison James). Stanley is one dangerous sexual animal. Stanley feels he’s been pushed aside because of Blanche. He has enough of Blanche’s interference in his house. He rapes her. It drives her over the edge and Stanley has Blanche committed to the mental institute. She is taken there by a stern nurse dressed in black and a doctor, also dressed in black. When the doctor turns around to face us we see it’s the same dancer (Spencer Hack)who played her husband Allan in Act I.

The production is breathtaking, not just because of the imagination and sweep of the piece, but because of the stillness of seeing such a wounded soul as Blanche in the first scene. There is a fatalism about Blanche’s situation, as if she could not help it. But of course her sense of herself as a southern belle with genteel ways could also be seen as Blanche being a natural flirt and the men she attracted taking advantage of that.

The acting of these dancers is stunning. Jurgita Dronina as Blanche has that distracted, other-worldly air of a woman totally out of her time. She wants to be back in Belle Reve, her girlhood home where everything was genteel, and that’s not possible.

As Allan Spencer Hack is flighty, sprightly, delicate and comfortable in the arms of his male lover. His humiliation when Blanche sees him with his lover is soul crushing because it leads to Allan’s suicide. As Stanley, Harrison James swaggers with such brimming confidence. He knows his power on men and women. The sex with Stella—an equally accommodating Emma Hawes—is muscular, athletic, raw and consensual. It is like watching two rutting animals go at it with equal passion and abandon.

And the rape scene with Stanley and Blanche is something else again-cruel, overpowering, deliberate, emotionally charged and it leaves you limp in your seat. The result is that Blanche ends the play as she began it, in the asylum, sitting on her bed, looking blankly out to us.

I love the play but this ballet invests another kind of life and emotion to it. It’s a piece of art that is astonishing. Brilliant.

It closes today (June 10)after only a week’s run.

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