A Streetcar Named Desire

Definition

Theater

  • The Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams;it opened on Broadway in 1947 under the direction of Elia Kazan.Jessica Tandy starred as the neurotic Southern Belle Blanche DuBois,who is brutalized and eventually driven insane by her brother-in-law,Stanley (played by Marlon Brando). Williams later recalled how Brandoarrived to audition for the part at his beach cottage; when the electricityfailed the young actor immediately repaired both the lights and thebad plumbing. Williams, who was openly gay, recalled, "He wasjust about the best-looking young man I've seen, but I have neverplayed around with actors and anyhow Brando was not the type to geta part that way."

    Kazan directed a somewhat censored screen version of Streetcarin 1951. Brando was joined by Vivien Leigh, who used her best ScarlettO'Hara Southern accent to deliver Blanche's famous line, "Ihave always depended on the kindness of strangers."

    During a revival of Streetcar at Los Angeles's AhmansonTheatre in 1973, a woman in the audience turned around to berate theman behind her for sniggering through the performance. "Don'tyou realize this is a serious play?" she reprimanded him. Theoffender was Tennessee Williams, who could never restrain himselffrom laughing at his own dialogue. "My tragedies are funnierthan my comedies," he later told a journalist. Other major revivalsinclude the 1992 Broadway production with Alec Baldwin and JessicaLange and the 2009 Donmar Warehouse production with Rachel Weisz.

    The play's curious title comes from Desire, a street in NewOrleans. The tram bearing the street's name rumbled past Williams'stiny French Quarter apartment several times a day; he is said to havedrawn inspiration from its clanging bell. The streetcar has been preservedas a historic and literary monument.

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