I have two problems with Bob Fischbach’s reviews in the World-Herald, and they both popped up again in his takes on the pair now running at the Omaha Community Playhouse. First, he lavished praise on the hilarity of Lend Me a Tenor.
My problem, given the daily’s advantage in reaching the print audience first, was that I completely agreed with him. Funniest ever. So I felt less enthusiasm for spreading the word that it was must-see comedy.
Then he found rather fundamental fault with the Playhouse treatment of A Streetcar Named Desire. My problem? So much general respect for his opinion that I started to second-guess my belief that I’d just seen a stunning, captivating production.
He argued, “Acting that might have worked fine in the mainstage space often felt too big for the more intimate Howard Drew Theatre, where the audience is in the actors’ laps. An essential sense of realism…came and went.”
Thus he shot down the prime reason I felt greater impact than I’d ever experienced with the Tennessee Williams tragedy. Seeing Stella and Stanley Kowalski and his friend Mitch coping with her sister Blanche Dubois close-up made for compelling drama.
It helped immeasurably that director Amy Lane was blessed with lighting by Steven L. Williams and sound by John Gibilisco which will be hard to beat when awards season rolls around. Williams enhanced that intimacy in scenes that seemed lit through venetian blinds, and Gibilisco’s use of music and other effects amped up the dramatic tension.
Yes, his sound design came closest at times to making Fischbach’s case for “too big,” but not for this viewer.
Now that I’ve turned my reaction to the triumphs at the Playhouse into a reviewer’s view of reviews, I’d better not neglect the cast. I couldn’t disagree more with Fischbach’s claim that Teri Fender as Blanche makes awareness of her mental fragility arrive late and sudden. For me, she arrives in New Orleans shaky enough to give fair warning. My only complaint came in catching her rapid-fire delivery.
But I couldn’t agree more with his praise for Leanne Hill Carlson who as Stella showed depth unfathomed in her many musical roles. And the reviewer was spot-on in characterizing the brutal animal magnetism of Chad Cunningham’s Stanley and yet wishing for more of his humanity.
And credit Amy Lane and the rest of her cast for doing nothing to disappoint the expectation of seeing theater at its very best.
Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.