The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival kicks off in less than a week, featuring plenty of Tennessee-centric events, from literary panels to writing classes. But no one can think Williams without thinking A Streetcar Named Desire, undeniably the best-known and most highly acclaimed play he ever wrote. Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré is bringing this famous drama to the stage with a praise-worthy production. Le Petit’s rendition is entering the second weekend of its run and will be playing through March 25, with its closing weekend overlapping and coinciding with the Tennessee Williams Festival, which takes place March 21 thru 25.
A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of Blanche DuBois, the haughty and judgmental former school teacher with a dark and controversial past. After losing both her family home and her job, Blanche seeks refuge by going to stay with her sister Stella and Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, in New Orleans. However, Blanche quickly wears out her welcome as she clashes with Stanley, causes turmoil between her sister and brother-in-law, and gradually reveals her flaws and indiscretions one by one. Nevertheless, her story is so sad and her situation so desperate that you can’t help but find her endearing.
From the set design to the props, Le Petit’s production feels very New Orleans, and seems to channel everything that one usually associates with New Orleans, including color, drama, excitement, sex, booze, and other forms of immorality. Elizabeth McCoy shines as Stella, and Curtis Billings as Stanley puts on a performance that would give even Marlon Brando a run for his money. Meanwhile, Beth Barley so convincingly and skillfully plays her role that people in the audience were remarking that she was the best Blanche DuBois they had ever seen. The play itself runs the gamut from sinister to cheerful, depressing to hopeful, but that’s a typical Tennessee Williams tactic. And this production manages to get across every message, idea, or theme—however subtle or outrageous—that the renowned playwright meant for his beloved play to portray.
This show is so good and so inherently New Orleans, it’s almost like a rite of passage. After all, there are just certain things that you can’t really live in this city without, like air conditioning, at least one Saints t-shirt, and premium car insurance. Add seeing A Streetcar Named Desire live on stage to that list.
A Streetcar Named Desire is playing at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, now through March 25. 616 Saint Peter St., 504-5220-2081, lepetittheatre.com.