Even though it started as a Broadway play, most might remember A Streetcar Named Desire as the 1951 film starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. A few years prior to the Academy Award winning production, Streetcar was an extremely popular show in the theatre district and eventually made huge waves in London. The film borrowed Brando from the Broadway production and also Leigh from the London cast. The rest of the story became history when the movie tore across screens around the world and introduced Brando as the next young movie hunk.
That history has come to life in the latest production from University Players (UP) in Windsor. In their version of A Streetcar Named Desire, UP held nothing back – it’s by far the biggest and most complex staging of any production in the past couple years and its easily the most exciting and vibrant production the school has produced in recent memory.
The acting is superior in this show, but the real star is the stage itself. Multiple rooms, indoor and outdoor scenes and a balcony are just a couple of the incredible highlights. The action flowed seamlessly through scene after scene as we were transported from kitchen to bedroom and porch to balcony. Behind the front part of the stage was a busy street where actors constantly passed by. Neatly tucked away in that area behind the main performance area was a live 6-piece jazz band under the direction of Sebastian Bachmeier. The band gave the show and very real feel as the music played at all the right moments. It actually felt a bit like the movie.
Rachel Offer lead the cast as Blanche, the distant sister of Stella (Siobhan Cooper) who comes for a visit after losing everything at the family homestead. She ends up staying for months, much to the chagrin of Stella’s commanding husband Stanley (Aaron Hrastovec). The trio were on the mark – Offer gave Blanche all the right glitz, glam and awkwardness just as each was needed, while Cooper and Hrastovec were the perfect 1947 broke New Orleans couple.
While most material written in the 1940s comes off a little old and outdated, Streetcar Names Desire is still considered a classic. It tackles domestic violence, gender roles in the home and mental illness – all of which still exist and still need to be discussed.
This mix of monumental staging, incredible live music and phenomenal casting gives University Players its best performance in years. Make sure to catch it while you still can. Streetcar Named Desire runs until November 4 at Essex Hall in Windsor.