By David Gordon, News Editor
From the moment the lights slowly rise on her staring off into the distance, you realize how hard it will be to concentrate on anything else. Cate Blanchett's glorious Blanche DuBois in Liv Ullman's production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," will probably go down in history as one of the most magnetic performances ever to be seen on stage.
Blanchett, whose Sydney Theatre Company produced the play and it's American transfer (first to the Kennedy Center, now to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater through December 20), essentially steals every second of the three hour-twenty minute duration from her colleagues, Robin McLeavy as her sister, Stella, and Joel Edgerton as Stanley Kowalski, but they still manage to hold their own against the blonde bombshell.
It's a fascinating take on Blanche, who is visiting Stella and Stanley at their tenement-like apartment in New Orleans after losing the family estate, her husband, her teaching job and is slowly breaking down. By the end, Blanche is gone, dragged off kicking and screaming to an institution. What's interesting, though, is how Blanchett plays the ending from the moment she steps on stage.
Her Blanche is a highly intelligent woman who is unafraid to put on airs, changing her voice depending on the people to whom she speaks. There's a drum corps in her head and we hear it, often at ear piercing volumes. She's proper at one moment, feminine and genteel; an animal the next, a sexual beast.
As magnetic as she is to watch, you can't really stop watching Edgerton and McLeavy, either, both of whom also deliver thoroughly compelling and winning performances. Edgerton, in the shadow of Marlon Brando, often channels him, but is far enough away that it's not a copycat. The scene he and Blanchett share towards the end of the second act, the knockdown drag out fight, is riveting.
Actually, Ullman's staging, which keeps the play set solely in the Kowalski apartment (designed by Ralph Myers), is often riveting. Still, there are a variety of moments when it feels long, especially towards the end of the first act.
But those moments are very few and the production is entirely worth the trek to Brooklyn. If you can get a ticket.