Just a Moment: “A Streetcar Named Desire” at University Theater Fresno State

It is very difficult to write about a single moment or scene in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” without giving away spoilers. Although I don’t know how you can spoil a 70-year-old American Classic, but hey . . . There are people out there who have never experienced “Streetcar” and that’s just the world we live in. If you are one of those who haven’t seen it, get tickets to this splendidly produced iteration at Fresno State this week.

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Reshma Meister (Blanche) and Jalen Stewart (Stanley). Photo by Fresno State University Theater.

And while you’re watching the play, don’t forget to tune your ears into the music hovering in the background and repeating their motifs over and over. Music plays a very specific role and is deftly crafted in the production by sound designer Regina Harris under the direction of Kathleen McKinley.

There is one moment in particular where the Varsouviana Polka swells as Blanche comes downstage, lost in a reverie of the past, and then is punctuated by a gunshot. Structurally, the moment is incredibly important to the play as a whole, and what follows must be balanced on a knife’s edge.

This combination of technical skill with sound, thoughtful staging, and a performance by a committed and sensitive actor sets off a hair-raising confrontation that I thought the best work in a show full of good scene work. Reshema Meister, who plays Blanche with complexity that belies her age, and Jimmy Haynie (as Mitch) push the scene just far enough to set into motion the inevitable tumble of the falling action, without pushing it over a cliff too early.

Would that be possible without that little sound moment – a polka and gunshot? Perhaps. But the combination of elements happening live and in real time that can make a moment in a theater a bit transcendent.

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Alyssa Benitez (Stella), Jalen Stewart (Stanley) and Reshma Meister (Blanche). Photo from Fresno State University Theater.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” has five more performances through May 12:  Tickets and information HERE!


About Just a Moment
The conundrum: I used to review shows. I no longer do unless specifically asked. But from time to time I still like to tell the world a little something about what I saw. My solution: The “Just a Moment” where I will discuss one moment in a show I watch that I found effective (or perhaps ALMOST effective?) and then try to articulate why.  Not the whole show, not a review, just something that struck me personally.
They’ll be compiled in this category, if you’d like to see the other Moments.  (And yes, the idea struck me while watching Into the Woods.)
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