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Monday, May 14, 2018

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE • Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Hardly a mention of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 classic can be made without a reference to its iconic film counterpart. Don’t remember the film? Good. It’s better to have a head free of any nagging comparisons, because this production, headlining this year’s third annual Tennessee Williams Festival, stands firmly on its own, with splendid creative touches and stellar performances.

Under a canopy of wooden window frames and clotheslines, Blanche DuBois shows up on the New Orleans doorstep of her sister Stella and her unfriendly brother-in-law Stanley. Escaping her past in Laurel, Mississippi, she’s come to live with Stella and Stanley now that Belle Reve, the family estate, has been lost. As put off as Blanche is with her sister’s dingy downstairs flat, she’s even more displeased with Stanley. His lowbrow poker games clash with Blanche’s highbrow constructions. Stella finds herself stuck in the middle, crazy for her husband but careful to protect her big sister’s mental fragility. Blanche, always leading with her feminine charm, sees nothing wrong with a little harmless fibbing if it bolsters her delicately spun illusions. Stanley, dangerous when brought to anger, has no tolerance for uppity bullshit. Things are bound to come to a head.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG • The Midnight Company

Between 1945 and 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany, prominent Nazi officers were brought to account by the Allied Forces for war crimes after World War II. Abby Mann’s fictionalized account focuses on the 1947 Judges' Trial, one of a string of military tribunals that took place after the major players had been convicted. Adapted from his 1959 teleplay, Mann is able to find the grays in-between the black and white atrocities that took place after the Nazi’s rise. Under the direction of Ellie Schwetye, The Midnight Company’s staging last week at the Missouri History Museum offered not only some strong performances, but also a brutal look at the underside of love of country and the consequences of compliance. And a shock of relevance.

Judge Dan Haywood, played with homespun charm by Joe Hanrahan, wasn’t the tribunal’s first choice for presiding judge. But after a lost re-election bid in North Carolina and the death of his wife, this district court judge found himself in Nuremberg with two other American judges, hearing testimony from key witnesses in the trial of three German judges -- complicit in allowing the law to become bent to serve the Third Reich.

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