A cul­tural twist on a clas­sic play

> Hatiloo gives fresh per­spec­tive to Wil­liams’ ‘Street­car’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Christo­pher Blank

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

A typ­i­cal per­for­mance of Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ play “A Street­car Named De­sire” in­volves the ex­pec­ta­tion of a clas­sic Amer­i­can drama, done the tra­di­tional way, in front of a tra­di­tional au­di­ence.

And by “tra­di­tional,” I mean “white.”

Hat­tiloo The­atre, Mem­phis’ black reper­tory com­pany, once again must be com­mended for giv­ing audiences for its cur­rent pro­duc­tion of “A Street­car Named De­sire” a new cul­tural per­spec­tive on a land­mark script. Even if the show leaves the “tra­di­tional” folks in the the­ater a lit­tle sur­prised by the trans­la­tion, it’s a pro­duc­tion that can cer­tainly gen­er­ate a much needed dis­cus­sion on how the lens of race and cul­ture opens up a whole new can of in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Set in New Orleans of the 1940s, it’s a “Street­car” in­fused with a post-Ka­t­rina at­ten­tion to color and class lines, though the script hasn’t been re­worded at all. Blanche (hap­pily com­ment­ing that her name is French for “white”) still in­sults Stan­ley by call­ing him a “Pol­lack,” to which he replies, ir­ri­ta­bly, that peo­ple from Poland are called Poles.

For many white view­ers, “Street­car” is of­ten seen as some­thing of a nail-biter. Blanche DuBois, a tragic sym­bol of the fad­ing south, and a ner­vous, men­tally ill hyp­ocrite, comes to live with her sis­ter Stella and Stella’s oafish blue-col­lar hus­band Stan­ley Kowal­ski. The ten­sion be­tween Blanche and Stan­ley can typ­i­cally be cut with a knife.

And yet, Hat­tiloo’s au­di­ence on open­ing night was the most an­i­mated I’ve ever seen at a Ten­nessee Wil­liams play. Sev­eral women gave each other high-fives through­out the per­for­mance as if the play

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