Firstly: I really liked the play. Great actors succeeded to bring the story to life and the staging was very well done, if a bit much. Also: this is Portland, a city teeming with creativity and love of life, so that was amazing as well.
You all can taste the huge BUT that’s about to come, can’t you?
Well, streetcar is all about a high-strung teacher, Blanche, who makes up her own reality, lives in her own world and knows only her own rules. She brilliantly manipulates everyone around her – almost on a subconscious level. All she wants is being loved. She loses the family mansion in the American south because she cared for ailing family members … or because she bought jewellery and dresses to look pretty for her admirers. she teaches in a private school… until she is fired because she seduced a boy … and she suffered through a terrible break up with her first love when it turned out he was gay and hanged himself.
When she doesn’t know where to go, she imposes herself onto her married sister, pointing out just how bad her husband is until he checks out her past and tells his wife about it. When Blanche confronts him, a violent quarrel ensues and he forces himself onto her. Now in light of all her previous lies nobody believes her and a doctor (a new admirer, she thinks) picks her up to admit her into an asylum.
With today’s knowledge about mental illnesses we realise of course that Blanche has schizophrenia and that this affliction is the root of her erratic behaviour. Tennessee Williams knew that as well when he wrote this story about the downfall of the southern nobility as his sister was a sufferer as well. Today I can’t help but feel that the impact of the story is a lot less strong than it was when the play first came out. Then Blanche was a delicate flower, a crazy woman. Now she could be medicated and live a decent life. add to that a completely black cast (they were marvellous btw) and the story takes a new turn without the power of the one left behind. There is no downfall of southern nobility – to my knowledge there were no ppl of colour who owned a mansion. So to me the story as told on Portland ‘s centre stage didn’t work. Partly because it needed me to suspend my belief that no one would diagnose her as schizophrenic and partly because of the experiment to stage the play colour-blind. Sometimes works. Sometimes it really doesn’t.
That’s one of times…