*Multiple award-winning television and film star Blair Underwood, a nominee for this year’s Drama League Award, and Nicole Ari Parker, a 2012 Outer Critics Circle nominee make stunning and powerful Broadway debuts in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama and American classic, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” at the Broadhurst Theatre for a limited sixteen week engagement.
The play made its original Broadway debut in 1947, with Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden. The film adaptation, which followed in 1951 and featured the original Broadway actors (with the exception of Jessica Tandy, who was replaced by Vivien Leigh as Blanche), won five Academy Awards. .
“A Streetcar Named Desire” takes place in New Orleans. Stanley (Blair Underwood), a hardworking industrial worker, is married to Stella (Daphne Rubin-Vega); they live in an apartment on Elysian Fields Avenue in the French Quarter. Stanley is a physically and emotionally abusive husband. Stella’s sister Blanche (Nicole Ari Parker) comes to visit Stella from their native, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi. After being forced out of town because of an affair with an underage young man, Blanche experiences a series of other problems and challengers—bad marriage/relationships and alcoholism. Blanche’s arrival and subsequent extensive stay creates conflict with Stanley, therefore adding pressure to her relationship with her sister Stella. Blanche is the subject of cruel and violent behavior by Stanley, who ultimately has her committed to a mental institution.
Underwood, best known for his diverse work in Hollywood, plays a passionate and compelling Stanley, an urban blue collar worker. A seasoned and highly-skilled actor, Underwood brings his own unique brand of charm and sex appeal to this Broadway role. Some critics have questioned whether he has the ability to play the role that has been so closely associated with the iconic Marlon Brando. Certainly, Brando, one of our most beloved American actors, is in a league of his own and cannot be compared. But Brando and all the other actors from the original Broadway production were virtual unknowns when they took on these roles on Broadway. It may be Underwood’s first time on Broadway, but it is certainly not the first time he has portrayed deep and complex characters. His body of work speaks for itself and has prepared him for such a role and time as this. And for some theater goers, who have not had the opportunity to experience the likes of Brando, Underwood is their modern day answer.
The season’s biggest surprise is Parker, who portrays Blanche DuBois as a charming Southern belle—vulnerable, witty, humorous and deeply complicated. Parker embodies the very soul of this character with grace and style. She delivers her southern accent definitively, word by word, line by line in a focused and deliberate manner. Many believed that Blanche’s character was based on Williams’ sister, Rose Williams, who suffered from mental illness and later become incapacitated after a lobotomy. Parker captures the character’s delicate balance between fantasy and reality in a compelling and sympathetic way. This role should launch other big opportunities for this underrated rising star.
Daphne Rubin-Vega (“Rent,” “Anna in the Tropics”), also a 2012 Outer Critics Circle nominee for her role of Stella, plays Stanley’s devoted wife and Blanche’s loving and caring sister. Stella, is the most believable and sympathetic character in the production, and Rubin-Vega portrays her with enormous depth and a wide range of emotions. The love and joy Blanche shares with her sister is heartfelt.
Wood Harris (“Wire”) gives a convincing performance as Mitch, a kind and heartbroken suitor of Blanche. And legendary dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, plays a Mexican neighbor. The 81-year old de Lavallade looks like a 60 year old woman and is a beautiful and delightful addition to the production.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” was directed by award-winning director and playwright, Emily Mann, with original music composed by five-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” was produced by Stephen C. Byrd and Alia M. Jones of Front Row Productions, also the producers of the 2008 Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Other producers’ credits include Anthony Lacavera, BET Networks, Henry G. Jarecki, Simon Says Entertainment, Dancap Productions, in association with Linda Davila, Patricia and Thomas Bransford and Theatre Venture Inc.
See “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Broadhurst Theatre, (located at 235 West 44th Street, Times Square), New York, New York. For more information, please visit: www.streetcaronbroadway.com
Gwendolyn Quinn is veteran media specialist with a career spanning 20 years. She is the founder of the African American Public Relations Collective (AAPRC) and the publisher and editorial director of Global Communicator, an e-publication for public relations, marketing, journalists and communications professionals. She is a contributor to Souls Revealed (Souls of My Sisters/Kensington) and featured in Handle Your Entertainment Business (Grand Central/Warner Publishing). She is a contributor to the forthcoming book, Souls of My Faithful Sisters (Souls of My Sisters/Kensington). Contact her at GwendolynQuinn@aol.com.