Director Emily Mann Electrifies Streetcar With New Energy

By Harry Haun
03 Apr 2012

Emily Mann
Emily Mann
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A Streetcar Named Desire, featuring a multi-racial cast, gets reinvented on Broadway by director Emily Mann and a cast led by Daphne Rubin-Vega, Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker.

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No pressure, but the fact remains: Daphne Rubin-Vega was never on Broadway in a Pulitzer Prize play without being nominated for a Tony Award. She debuted as the heroin-addicted Mimi in Jonathan Larson's La Bohème update, Rent, and later did the adulterous Conchita in Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics.

Now at the Broadhurst Theatre, she takes on her third Pulitzer opus, Tennessee Williams' 1947 spicy slice of New Orleans strife, A Streetcar Named Desire.



She's Stella DuBois Kowalski — ragdoll of the piece — divided by both names, pulled this way and that by her brutish husband, Stanley, and her needy sister, Blanche, while mustering some household decorum. Better she shoulda stood in bed. [For the record, the Williams estate granted the producers permission to cut "Kowalski" from the script, since this production is set in a multi-racial New Orleans; Stanley's heritage is now African American and not Polish.]

"She's trying to keep fire and gunpowder from coming together," the actress says, "trying very hard to make peace with these two people she loves most in life. She has to make a choice. It's interesting the choice she makes and why, and it's painful."

But is it the right choice? "I'm a little angry with Stella's choice — saddened by it — but I know the reason she makes it. It's not a good choice. I'll be wrestling with it."

In a sense, the die was cast for her character years before the play begins, Rubin-Vega contends: "She made a very clear decision to leave Belle Reve and go explore her own world at the risk of proverbially throwing her sister under a bus." He may not look it or act it, but Stanley Kowalski turns out to be the "belle reve" (French for "beautiful dream") Stella found on leaving the DuBois ancestral home in Laurel, MS.

Those previous Pulitzer bumps give Rubin-Vega a jump on her co-stars — Blair Underwood (Stanley), Nicole Ari Parker (Blanche) and Wood Harris (Mitch) all make their Broadway bows here — and she made the cut primarily because McCarter Theatre artistic director Emily Mann directed her in Anna in the Tropics.

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