PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: A Streetcar Named Desire; The Kowalskis Don't Live Here Anymore

By Harry Haun
23 Apr 2012

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As the principal in the middle, trying to be true both to her brutish husband and to her skittish sister, Rubin-Vega stays in a perpetual state of reaction to the sharp jabs she gets from both sides. Her performance helps mightily to glue the play together.

"It's a great piece," she insisted, "and Stella is such an undermined role. I think that she's just so mine-able. There's just so much stuff you can discover. Six months from now, I'll be waking up, 'Oh, that's what that is!' That's what so fantastic about this."

Wood Harris as Mitch, friend of Stanley and last chance of Blanche, thought in general the opening night went well. "I feel like what we had was in our muscle memory," he said. "I don't think we can go under a certain level so I generally feel pretty good, but I go in on myself pretty hard. I love the Mitch character, and I don't have to rape nobody! That's wonderful, right? It's a love story between Blanche and Mitch. That gets lost in the film interpretation, but the play is wonderful for that."

Matthew Saldivar, who plays, with Amelia Campbell, half of the warring couple upstairs, seemed content with his lot at the Copacabana after-party: "To be in a Tennessee Williams play on Broadway? I would have played the coffee pot."

As a Mexican-American, he adds to the production's multi-coloring, "but in this play, I'm as white as it gets. This is New Orleans, probably the most mixed city in America." His reward for playing one of Stanley's poker cronies is that he gets to utter the curtain line: "This game is seven-card stud." In a play that overflows with potent, timeless lines, it's one of the least remembered. "I can't think about that too much," Saldivar said. "I might have a nervous breakdown."

"I want to be part of history" was Carmen de Lavillade's response, simple and to the point, for why she chose to take this multi-racial Streetcar ride — even as the fleeting presences of "flower lady" and "Mexican neighbor." Rarely has an urban stoop been more attractively decorated, and one suspects she had a hand in the spirited N'Orlens street-struttin' that she leads at the top of Act Two.

Another standout in that prancing parade is Aaron Clifton Moten as The Young Collector. ("Young. Young. Young.") Fresh out of Juilliard, he is making his first pass at Broadway. "I feel even more excited to be making my Broadway debut with guys like Blair Underwood, Wood Harris and Nicole Ari Parker [first-timers all]," he said. "I really was here to just be eye-candy for Nicole," he shrugged about his paper-boy bit. "I wore something tighter every day. She's a beautiful woman. Her eyes are gold. There's misconception. People think they're hazel or brown or light brown. They're gold! Gold eyes! Try and look at her closely."

Wood Harris
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Emily Mann, artistic director of Princeton's McCarter Theatre, helmed the play and seemed pleased with her work. "I felt very good about the cast tonight," she said. "They were really on their games, and the audience was with them. They've been very consistent, and their growth has been extraordinary from the first audience to now. They've been playing to standing ovations since their first preview, so they've had a great, galvanic response. Immediately, people got the humor, which I love and which Tennessee always wanted."

Her first order of business back at McCarter will be another Pulitzer Prize play: Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance. "I haven't cast it yet," she admitted. "Edward and I decided to meet after I got this open. I have a feeling he didn't stay long tonight, did he?" Correct!

Others attending the opening included cultural icons Cicely Tyson and a baseball-capped Harry Belafonte; Tony winners Tonya Pinkins, Karen Ziemba and Adriane Lenox; "Lincoln Heights" actor Russell Hornsby with wife Denise; producers Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley and their kids; Giancarlo Esposito, going from "Breaking Bad" to Brooklyn Borough President in a John Patrick Shanley play, Storefront Church in June at the renovated Atlantic Theatre; producer-actress Tamara Tunie with singer hubby Gregory Generet; Bess' Porgy, Norm Lewis; Joe Sirola; Wendell Pierce; Deion Sanders with Tracey Edmonds; Gregory W. Meeks; Alla Jones; Elsa Davis; Boris Kokjoe, the leading lady's husband's and Terrence Howard's much-used replacement in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; star of Broadway's nonrelated Race Richard Thomas with Georgiana Bischoff; director-choreographer Debbie Allen; Beau Bridges, enjoying a night off from [How To Succeed in] Business; Jocelyn Taylor; Frank Underwood Sr. and wife Marilyn; Jay Manuel; Shawn Carter Peterson; Other Desert Cities' patriarch Stacy Keach; composer Terence Blanchard with Robin Burgess; The Best Man handler Michael McKean with actress-wife Annette O'Toole; Michael C. Hall (a.k.a. "Dexter"); "Today Show" weatherman Al Roker with wife Deborah; Tony Plana and Steve Harris.