The play goes through this breakdown of manners, pretence, and sanity (in order), exposing the motivations of the characters – and they’re instantly recognizable: lust, frustration, desire for money, loneliness. Each is played out both subtly and obviously, as in the scene immediately following Stanley and Stella’s violent row and making-up (in which we are struck again by the chemistry between the couple and the actors), when Stella says “There are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark that sorta make everything else … unimportant.” You can’t help but be a little distrustful of Stanley and Stella after that; in fact, it’s difficult to know who to trust, as each departs ever faster from rationality for their own reasons. Ruby Thomas’ expressions as her character lies to herself and to others – and then, most frighteningly, when she tells the truth – are disturbing largely because she was so convincing a breezy, sociable woman only moments earlier. I had a similar reaction to James Corrigan; for all his character’s misogynistic tendencies, it was an intelligent portrayal and he remained, almost until the very end, eminently likeable.
Realism is the overarching aesthetic here; sound effects are minimal: only the occasional, loud sound of a streetcar thundering by, terminating all conversation or, most effectively, in a tense, silent moment. Costumes are simple, of the period, and help acclimatize us to the difference in accents and attitudes. The design team has done exceptionally well to create such an adaptable and unobtrusive set; the Kowalskis’ home is cheery and comfortable – we certainly don’t feel claustrophobic all the way through the play. However, when the three characters are in the house together, the tension between them is amplified by the surroundings, which seem suddenly cramped; you feel their tangible frustration at being constantly in each other's way. Movement around the stage is efficient; even when Stanley wanders, seemingly aimlessly, about the flat, it lends him an air of restlessness and pent-up energy which makes his explosions into anger seem an almost welcome (if uncomfortable) release.
With an exciting show boasting tight, controlled acting, almost entirely smooth scene and light changes and an intense, nerve-wracking energy, the students involved in this term’s Playhouse production have created something that is more than worth watching.