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Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
United States
San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley, CA

Scottish Ballet's “A Streetcar Named Desire” Complex and Fascinating

by Joanna G. Harris
May 11, 2017
Cal Performances: Zellerbach Auditorium
101 Zellerbach Hall #4800
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
In the play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the author, Tennessee Williams, early on, described the leading character, Blanche DuBois, as a “moth,” attracted to light but very easily destroyed. The Scottish Ballet’s production uses that image throughout the performance, beginning and ending with Blanche reaching for a light.

Based on Williams' familiar Pulitzer Prize-winning play, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa added backstory to the ballet in the form of Blanche’s early years at her family home, Belle Reve, in Mississippi and the circumstances leading up to the death of her young husband and the loss of Belle Reve. These events haunt Blanche continually throughout her life, even after she moves into her sister Stella's house in the New Orleans French Quarter. The play usually begins there. For the ballet those scenes come early in Act I.

Faced with troubling situations at her sister's house, the revealing of her despondency and alcohol dependence, and the rape she suffers at the hands of brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, Blanche is driven to the madness. All these events are dramatically danced by Scottish Ballet's adroit dancers.

Eve Mutso, the leading ballerina for the company, is a dramatic virtuoso. As the adult Blanche, Mutso is able to accomplish her descent into madness while retaining the fragility of "the moth." She was given five or six scenes, each demanding both strong ballet technique and the dramatic ability to project this complex character.

Also of note in the ballet were Sophie Laplane as Stella and Christopher Harrison as Stanley.

An early duet between Victor Zarello
as Blanche’s husband and Constant Vigler as his forbidden lover was also very powerful.

Excerpts of their duet and Blanche’s husband’s tragic death are recalled throughout the ballet. They form a strong part of Blanche’s painful memories descent into madness.

Peter Salem composed an original score that gave each scene unique character and emphasized the dramatic situations in varying scenes in New Orleans, a bowling alley, a poker game, the revelation of Blanche’s past and her courtship with a gentleman and others. The music and the many roles created for the corps, crossing and recrossing the stage, moving boxes, echoing the action, sometimes made for lack of cohesion for the ballet as a whole. As a work, it might be tightened and become more pointed for the central drama. In the end however, it was a complex and fascinating ballet.
Eve Mutso and artists of Scottish Ballet in 'A Streetcar Named Desire.'

Eve Mutso and artists of Scottish Ballet in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

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