A Streetcar Named Desire/Malvern Theatres

THIS steamy New Orleans night most certainly belongs to Kelly Gough who proves she has every right to join her notable predecessors in the Blanche DuBois acting hall of fame.

This Blanche may be mad and meaner than a Louisiana gator with its snout caught in a trap, but she is also a chronically damaged human being existing in a macho world where men in sweaty vests call all the shots.

Gough is simply superb. One minute she’s spitting Tabasco, the next she’s smoother than an iced mint julep.

Her character plays the sister of Stella Kowalski, a woman stuck in an abusive marriage to Stanley, a domestic control freak whose power exists solely between four grubby walls.

Stanley (Patrick Knowles) is one of the world’s great losers, an inadequate with a chip on his shoulder the size of a Mississippi riverboat. You hate him right from the outset.

Thankfully, bringing a bit of calm to this over-spiced southern gumbo is gentle giant Mitch (Dexter Flanders) who soon discovers that while the sexually provocative Blanche may talk the talk, she doesn’t necessarily always walk the walk.

Meanwhile, Amber James endures as the deluded and long-suffering Stella Kowalski, blindly hopeful that her bullying husband might one day change his ways. Even her pregnancy is a manifestation of a misplaced dream that will never become a reality.

Director Chelsea Walker has faithfully interpreted Tennessee Williams’ great work, although I would have preferred a period jazz soundtrack rather than the occasional bursts of Madonna and rap music which is what we got. This is, after all, New Orleans, is it not?

Fittingly, Georgia Lowe’s stark designs add to the overall feeling of alienation amid a swirling maelstrom of truly toxic relationships in the land of cotton.

A Streetcar Named Desire runs until Saturday, April 14, and is a compelling, if slightly over-long, theatre experience.

John Phillpott