Hungarian theatre and film director János Szász puts his unique stamp on Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire when he and designer Csaba Antal stage the American classic in "a cold and unforgiving industrial warehouse" setting at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, March 30-May 6.
The scenic design at the Arena's Fichandler Stage has the domestic New Orleans locales "condensed" into a single room — an attic with a stairwell in the center. According to production notes, "Overhead are dirty, leaky skylights, exposing the living quarter to harsh environmental elements."
The steamy tale of madness, lost dreams and brutish sexuality — with deluded, faded belle Blanche DuBois center stage — is considered one of the great poetic dramas of the 20th century. An experimental New York Theatre Workshop revival in 1999 reconceived the show so that much of the action centered around a bathtub.
"The lives of these characters have spiraled into an unstable disaster," said designer Antal, in production notes. "Everyone crammed into the same room makes living most unpleasant and sharp. The floor is gray parquet and the room is spare, hard and unsettled."
According to director Szász, "I want very much to lift this play away from where it is usually set, time and place — I want to create a show which is timeless, which could happen today. All of the problems in the play are timeless: problems that begin in childhood, the pain the characters experience, sins and guilt." This marks the first time and Eastern European director has staged an American play at Arena Stage, though the resident professional company has engaged foreign directors for international works in the past. Official opening is April 6.
The company includes Rebecca Nelson (Blanche), Dan Moran (Stanley), Mercedes Herrero (Stella), David Toney (Mitch), Tanisha Brady Christie (Eunice Hubbell), Marty Lodge (Steve Hubbell), Timothy Getman (Nurse), Hugh Ness (Doctor), Lawrence Redmond (Pablo Gonzalez), Andrew William Smith (Young Collector), Polly Kuulei Sommerfeld (Flower Seller).
Designers are Howard Vincent Kurtz (costumes), Allen Lee Hughes (lighting).
Tickets range $27-$45. Arena Stage is at 1101 Sixth Street SW. For information, call (202) 488-3300 or visit the website at www.arenastage.org.
— By Kenneth Jones