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On Theater: Golden West closing out legendary drama

November 16, 2011|By Tom Titus
  • From left, Camille Lacey (as Blanche), Lawrence Hemingway (as Stanley), Renee Curtis (as Stella) in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."
From left, Camille Lacey (as Blanche), Lawrence Hemingway…

In the pantheon of great American playwrights, three names stand out: Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. And few would dispute the notion that, when assessing Williams' work, his masterpiece was "A Streetcar Named Desire," which won the Pulitzer Prize.

This tale of steamy passion and shattered dreams, set in New Orleans in the late 1940s, has been tackled over the years by a few of the more ambitious community and collegiate producing groups. In this, the 60th year since the movie version hit the big screen, it's currently being played out on the massive stage at Golden West College in a searing, emotionally involving production.

Director Tom Amen, who once played Stanley Kowalski in another college rendition, wrings the most from his capable student cast, and his affinity for the play is evident in every phase of the show. Sigrid Hammer Wolf's fragmented apartment and courtyard setting offers the ideal backdrop for the legendary drama.

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Williams spun a haunting tale of Blanche DuBois, an emotionally shattered woman who, thrust out from her genteel upbringing, seeks refuge in the humble home of her sister Stella, who has adapted beautifully to a more raucous existence with her brutish, often violent, husband Stanley in the rough-and-tumble French Quarter.

Blanche, however, is not all that she seems and when Stanley ferrets out her purple past, the fur — and the dinner dishes — start flying. Golden West's riveting production offers a sterling cast in these familiar roles.

The nervous, nattering Blanche, feigning horror at her sister's "condition," is beautifully interpreted by Camille Lacey, who maintains her character's facade with dedication and zeal. Lacey flutters like a fish out of water in this unfamiliar atmosphere, modulating her emotional responses between her artificial panic in the play's early scenes and the actual extreme terror of its climax.

Lawrence Hemingway brings his strapping, no-nonsense character of Stanley to the forefront, the antithesis of Blanche's tender fantasies. The thrust-and-parry between them intensifies to a full-fledged confrontation in which Hemingway exerts a frightening authority.

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