A Streetcar Named Desire at barebones productions | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Streetcar Named Desire at barebones productions

It's a perfect incarnation of the Tennessee Williams classic

The name "barebones productions" is a tad misleading, given the sumptuous squalor in its perfect incarnation of Tennessee Williams' classic A Streetcar Named Desire.

Directed by Melissa Martin, this production of the 1947 play captures the look of post-World War II America in a seedy but pulsating neighborhood, Marigny in New Orleans, ironically named Elysian Fields. Life is lived loudly and on the edge. Into this bright, crowded slum arrives — almost ethereally drifts — a pastel Southern belle with Lillian Gish curls and swooping skirts, clashing with then-current fashion. (Thank you, costume designer Richard Parsakian.)

In one of the greatest characters ever created for a woman, Tami Dixon fans out the layers of Blanche DuBois, her quick charm masking her inner terrors, her delusions more real than the ugliness of her past. She's a horrid person, but so appealing, in many senses of the word.

The rest of the cast is also spot on. Barebones director Patrick Jordan embodies the savagery and animal stolidity of Stanley Kowalski. A nearly unrecognizable Jeffrey Carpenter (Dixon's real-life husband) credibly plays the gentle giant of an unlikely suitor, Mitch. Jenna C. Johnson's Stella provides a contrast and mirror to Blanche, their sexual desires manifesting different dangers.

Tami Dixon and Patrick Jordan in barebones productions' A Streetcar Named Desire
Photo courtesy of Ray Miles
Tami Dixon and Patrick Jordan in barebones productions' A Streetcar Named Desire

Tony Ferrieri's re-imagining of Streetcar's environs is literally multi-layered: the wallpaper stripped off in spots as Blanche's soul will soon be. Fight director Randy Kovitz adds some credible and scary violence to the ever-rising passions. Dave Bjornson designed the appropriate sounds, augmented by music (played live at some performances) from Joe Grushecky and John Gresh. Andrew David Ostrowski's lighting augments the glare of Marigny while supplementing Blanche's fading bloom. More kudos to technical director Charles "CJ" McDermott and stage manager AJ Bradshaw.

Martin blends all this talent into an exciting production of a true American classic. Even on the coldest day, this show is hot.