Theater Recap: Orlando Shakes' Staged Reading of "Streetcar Named Desire"

Orlando Shakes' reading of "Streetcar Named Desire" (3/11/12)

With the rising price of tickets, it's always welcome when a theater company presents a free show. When that company is Orlando Shakespeare Theater, and the script is Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, even a bare-bones reading without sets or props can be as powerful as a Broadway production.
Case in point: last Sunday night (March 11th, 2012), the Shakes completed it's "Three by Tenn" free reading series with a well-attended staged reading of Williams' best-known work, immortalized on screen by Brando. Orlando had its own movie star in the form of Rus Blackwell (featured in Monster, Dolphin Tale, Battle Los Angeles, and many others) who tackled the iconic role of Stanley Kowalski with spectacular results. Though technically too mature for the role, Blackwell captured Stanley's brutish physicality and animal intelligence, but also his little-boy vulnerability, with endearing honesty.
The whole cast did a remarkable job, considering they had only 2 1/2 days of rehearsal. (For theme park fans, Epcot's original in-park Dreamfinder Ron Schneider had a cameo as the doctor.) But Ame Livingston's Blanche was so consistent in her histrionic arrogance, she proved a hard heroine to empathize with. As a consequence, this was the actually first Streetcar I've ever seen where I ended up rooting for Stanley against his sister-in-law.
What impressed me most was director Brendon Fox's effective incorporation of spoken stage directions, setting the scene at open with Williams' glorious words; and punctuating physical movements, creating the illusion of action.
In a few hours, I'll be seeing opening night of Theatre Downtown's own production of Streetcar, starring Stephen Pugh. I stage-managed Streetcar at that theatre over a decade ago, so I'm excited to see how director Frank Hilgenberg has handled this revival. You'll be able to read my review of the show next in the next issue of the Orlando Weekly.