When I saw that Tennessee Williams’ tragedy of lost youth and nostalgia was being performed by a cast of sixteen-to-eighteen-year-olds, I’ve got to admit that I had my doubts. The director too says that Streetcar presents us with ‘nuanced characters that many would consider too complex and mature for high school actors to portray’.
To call Blanche DuBois a nuanced character would indeed be an understatement, and this was not the first time I’ve seen her played a bit too vulnerably, and without the coyness which the script demands. The flirtatiousness was there sometimes (for example when she leant in a bit too close to Stanley when he was buttoning her up) but the playfulness of, for instance, turning on the radio during the poker party after the women have specifically been told to keep quiet, was absent – it seemed like she had genuinely forgotten the order instead of sneakily rebelling against it. Tlalli Moya-Smith’s Blanche was sweet and innocent, which was beautiful in the later scenes when she stumbled over everything in her distress, rubbing her temples and crying. However, Blanche is supposed to be Stanley’s counterpart in terms of stage presence and ideology, but because of Moya-Smith’s fragile approach, it meant that she was somewhat swallowed up by her brother-in-law, which leads me on to Augie Grahn.
A teenage boy playing Stanley is not just a teenage boy playing a full grown man but the very epitome of masculinity. This is a great feat if achieved, and Augie Grahn excelled at it - his movements were big and his quick, impatient speech was full of Kowalski bravado. The physical chemistry he had with Stella was also impressive – unbridled yet professional.
Ashley Shuster made a strong, sensible, almost bolshy maternal figure, whose only weakness was for her husband; Mitch’s awkward bumbling and avoiding eye contact during difficult moments was apt; and the Young Man’s nervous excitement at Blanche’s seduction was delightfully comedic. Eunice however could have perhaps benefited from some extra direction. The scenes with her and her husband fell somewhere between being funny and poignant - without really managing to be either. There were also times where the volume of the cast could have been tuned down and the front of the stage further utilised for a more subtle and intimate impression.
However, in spite of the cast’s age and a few minor flaws which amateur theatre is bound to have, the overriding feeling on leaving Pilrig studio was one of admiration.