‘Streetcar' a bit too big for small space - Omaha.com
go logo
article photo
article photo
Leanne Hill Carlson left as Stella Kowalski and Chad Cunningham as Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire."


‘Streetcar' a bit too big for small space
By Bob Fischbach

One thing apparent at the Omaha Community Playhouse's Thursday preview of “A Streetcar Named Desire:” Six decades later, Tennessee Williams' 1948 Pulitzer winner has lost none of its dramatic power.

The story of a fallen Southern woman, clinging to sanity behind a mask of refinement that is ripped away by her brutal brother-in-law, feels as shattering now as ever. And the writing is just as sublime.


What: Stage drama

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St., Howard Drew Theatre

When: Tonight through May 27; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $35 adults, $21 students

Information: 402-553-0800 or online at omahaplayhouse.org

“I thought this was going to be boring,” one Creighton Prep student told another at intermission in the lobby.

Well, they had just seen Blanche DuBois try to seduce the newspaper collection boy (Isaac Reilly, spot-on), and they were not bored.

But from an opening moment in which Stanley Kowalski bellowed at his bowling buddies at top volume (they're right next to you, Stanley), I kept getting the feeling the production was less powerful because it was overpowered.

Acting that might have worked fine in the mainstage space often felt too big for the more intimate Howard Drew Theatre, where the audience is in the actors' laps. An essential sense of realism, with the delicate shadings of conflicting emotion that fill the characters, came and went.

Teri Fender, as Blanche, clearly telegraphs the high-strung sensibilities of a woman rattled to the core as her past closes in on her. But an awareness of her mental fragility arrived late and felt sudden. Yes, Blanche is putting on an act, but we need to see the layered truths underneath peek out more and more as her desperation builds.

As Stanley, Chad Cunningham captures the animal magnetism, sensuality and brutality of the character so fully, it's something to see. Yet you wish he'd ease up at times. Scenes in which the human, vulnerable side came out were the ones that made the character more interesting, more than a villain.

One performance that felt perfectly calibrated to the space was Leanne Hill Carlson as Stella, Stanley's wife. Carlson goes for broke in more than one believably lustful embrace. That's countered by scenes in which you see Stella torn between Stanley and Blanche, and torn about her relationship with such a self-involved, troublesome sister, or such a callous man. A moment in which she spells out to Blanche what her attraction to Stanley feels like is one of several brilliantly played.

Colton Neidhardt, too, brings a sense of realism to Mitch, Stanley's poker-playing buddy who becomes Blanche's last hope for a stable refuge — until Stanley clues him in on Blanche's sordid past. Neidhardt brings out the best in Fender, as well, particularly in a tender ending to a date.

One other star of this production is guest designer Steven L. Williams' lighting and set, which capture the seedy flavor of a particular New Orleans milieu so well. From the wrought iron and shutters above to the worn-through linoleum below, he gets the details just right in very tight quarters.

In the end, director Amy Lane's show is more than watchable, yet less than it could be with a bit more subtlety and nuance. This “Streetcar,” a freight train of raw power, needs a little braking to hit the sweet spot.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1269, bob.fischbach@owh.com

Contact the writer: Bob Fischbach

bob.fischbach@owh.com    |   402-444-1269

Bob reviews movies and local theater productions and writes stories about those topics, as well.

Read more stories by Bob

Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom

Copyright ©2014 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or redistributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.

Latest Stories

Omaha's dive-iest dive bars
Omaha's dive-iest dive bars

Omaha's many neighborhood bars run the gamut of experiences.

Dining notes: Famous Dave’s moving to new spot
Dining notes: Famous Dave’s moving to new spot

Council Bluffs’ Famous Dave’s is relocating.

South Omaha will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican food fest
South Omaha will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican food fest

This year, for the first time, South Omaha will celebrate Cinco de Mayo with an authentic Mexican food festival.

Sawyer Brown known for its 'Nebraska Song'

Sawyer Brown is known for its three No. 1 country hits and 16 studio albums, but here in Nebraska, it's mostly known for one thing.

Why is ketchup so hard to pour?
Why is ketchup so hard to pour?

Why is ketchup so hard to pour? It has to do the fact that it’s a strange kind of fluid that behaves like a solid. Sometimes.

Opera Omaha's 'Cinderella' is a little different, but story is still universal
Opera Omaha's 'Cinderella' is a little different, but story is still universal

Joan Font always knew “Cinderella” was a universal story. He just didn't realize how universal it was.

Live Music Calendar

A roundup of live music events in the Omaha area.

Big weekend ahead for Nebraska Wind Symphony

During a concert Sunday, the Nebraska Wind Symphony will induct two members into its hall of fame, celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Music in Catholic Schools, present a concerto by the winner of its annual memorial scholarship and feature a sixth-grader as a guest conductor.

Theater events listing

A list of opening and upcoming theater events.

Black Lips show staying power
Black Lips show staying power

With seven albums, the band has managed to stick around far longer than its influences.

Movies Opening this week

Movie showtimes and theater listings

Read this!


Tonight in Prime Time
© 2014 Omaha World-Herald. All rights reserved