Countless academics, critics and professionals have written about Tennessee Williams’ masterful drama “A Streetcar Named Desire” since its 1947 Broadway debut. But up until now, I’m willing to bet no one has ever proposed that the set should never stop spinning. Would any show benefit from that kind of arrangement? Even “Les Miz” knew when to turn off the turntable.
Benedict Andrews’ sleek, in-the-round staging of “Streetcar” starring Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) and Ben Foster, which is set in the present day and uses a revolving platform that is almost always in motion, is now playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO after premiering at London’s Young Vic.
New York is no stranger to reconceived productions of classic American dramas. This season alone, director Ivo van Hove premiered experimental versions of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” and “The Crucible” on Broadway.
The motion of the set reflects Blanche DuBois’ fragile and disoriented state of mind. It also permits an up-close, clinical view of the confined apartment where the play is set. With this setup, the characters have nowhere to hide from us.
But it’s hard to endure the nonstop motion for 3½ hours. After a while, it comes off as an unnecessary gimmick with the potential to make you feel seasick. The nonstop background music also becomes distracting.
That aside, this is a great production. The play works unexpectedly well set in the present day and without the traditional southern gothic look. The frequent altercations among family members bring to mind contemporary domestic abuse.
Anderson gives a wholly complete performance as Blanche that depicts the tragic character in all of her mental and emotional extremes. Foster’s Stanley is appropriately imposing and rough. Vanessa Kirby makes an unusually strong impression as Blanche’s younger sister Stella, who is caught in between Blanche and Stanley.