The Source Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" is rather like a weekend athlete entering the Olympic decathlon. The odds are against him bringing home the gold.
Williams' play is a classic, but it is not perfect, and the weaknesses of this production bare its awkward transitions and anachronistic tangential characters like a large run in a silk stocking. Furthermore, although it takes place in two small rooms, it is a large play that requires space, and cramming the panorama and violence of Blanche Dubois' disintegration into the Source's Warehouse Theatre reminds one of the proverbial bull in the china shop.
Director Roger Meersman, who also heads the University of Maryland Theatre Department, has made some peculiar choices in using the space, at one point even adding an entire improvised scene while Stella and her neighbor Eunice set up the stage in preparation for Blanche's birthday party, instead of using stagehands to take care of the job. The idea that two actresses could ad lib prose that would seem in any way compatible with Williams' is preposterous.
Another distraction is the abscence of blackouts, arresting the actors in odd positions -- Stanley and Stella making love, Stanley lying on top of Blanche -- neither out of sight nor in, waiting for a cue to get off stage.
As Blanche, Connie Geis has the repressed delicacy and frailty of this fading southern belle and is quite fine in several scenes, particularly when she is flirting with the stolid Mitch, pinching up her face coquettishly and wincing at the crude yells from the men in the next room. She is gifted also with an evocative voice, but has grabbed as her handle on Blanche a monotonous speech pattern that robs her most important speeches of their poetry. Marty Lodge is also a capable Mitch, with a touching simplicity and gentleness.
Jeff Holbrook was clearly cast as Stanley for his physique rather than his skill. He is indeed a fine specimen of beefcake, but as an actor he is still in rehearsal. His Stanley is a brute, out of control in a way that makes the audience fear that a chair is about to land in someone's lap. Rebecca Shroyer is a sweet Stella, but unfinished.
The minor characters are performing rather than acting, and seem intent on outshouting each other rather than creating an ensemble. This play has the intricacy of a lace tablecloth, but in this production it has become a piece of linoleum.
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Roger Meersman; set, Steve Siegel; sound, Stephen Gray; lighting, V. Hana Sellers; costumes, Hayley Hoffman. With Jill Covington, Connie Geis, Jeff Holbrook, Duane Hutson Jr., Carolyn Kern, Marty Lodge, Moire MacDonald, Philip Ragozzino, Michael Rease, Ed Riner and Rebecca Shroyer. At the Source Theatre's Warehouse Rep through Dec. 1.