Based on A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, presented through special arrangement with The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.
When Tennessee Williams began writing his play A Streetcar Named Desire he thought of calling it The Moth. Our first image takes its inspiration from this title when we see a young girl, Blanche, dancing under a bare light bulb. She is a delicate creature fluttering towards the light, a light which attracts but which can also burn: a light which represents desire.
Our storytelling, unlike Williams' play, begins by relating the story of Blanche DuBois while she is growing up in America’s Deep South. The year is 1935, and the lifestyle of the landed gentry is in steep decline. Blanche is a beautiful young girl with her life ahead of her.
Blanche meets and falls in love with Alan, a gentle and sensitive young man. At their wedding we meet her family and Blanche’s younger sister, Stella. The wedding is elegant and genteel even though the once wealthy family is soon to lose its home, Belle Reve, due to mounting debt incurred through gambling and profligate spending. At the wedding, Alan briefly meets a Young Man and finds he is attracted to him. Alan is clearly uncertain about his sexuality and although he loves his wife, he soon begins a secret affair. When Blanche unexpectedly comes upon the two men together, she is confused and upset, and eventually rejects Alan. In despair, Alan runs off and shoots himself, dying in Blanche’s arms. She is distraught and cannot forgive herself for dealing so harshly with him.
Stella Leaves Home
Stella makes a decision to leave Belle Reve and make her way in the world, leaving Blanche alone with her family and their financial problems. Over time, she has to deal with many family deaths, including her parents. The family home, the beautiful decaying Southern mansion Belle Reve, is lost and Blanche is overwhelmed.
When the scene shifts to the music filled streets of New Orleans, Stella meets and falls passionately in love with Stanley Kowalski, a factory worker. Here, the score introduces us to the world of jazz.
We rejoin Blanche and find she is without a home, now living in a hotel. Haunted by the guilt of her young husband’s death, she seeks comfort in alcohol and in the arms of strangers, including Shep Huntley, a wealthy Texan. Eventually she is discovered seducing a Young Boy and is forced to leave town.
Now heavily addicted to alcohol, Blanche travels to her sister Stella in New Orleans, hoping to leave behind her past and to make a new start. She meets up with Stella and Stanley at the bowling alley, and when she is taken to their apartment, she is horrified to see how basic their lives are and how little privacy there will be as she shares their tiny living space. Stanley proudly tells her that they are expecting a baby. Blanche senses that Stanley is fiercely territorial and resents her presence in his home; he feels that Blanche looks down on him and thinks him common.
The Poker Game
When Stanley’s friends arrive at the apartment for their poker night, Stella is eager to be out of his way and takes Blanche out for the evening. As the two women watch a floorshow in a nightclub, Blanche drinks heavily. She feels lightheaded and suddenly is haunted by an image of Alan and the night of his death. Shaken, she leaves the club with Stella, and on the street meets a Mexican flower seller, selling flowers for graves as she chants “flores para los muertos”: flowers for the dead. As Blanche buys a flower, she imagines again that young Alan is haunting her.
Back at the apartment Stanley’s poker game is in full swing. There, Blanche meets his friend Mitch. Mitch is a shy man unconfident with women and unmarried, and Blanche takes her opportunity to flirt with him. She longs for a safe haven, protection from the world's harshness, and can see no way to find this unless she can find a husband. In the early fifties, few women could imagine survival or happiness without being married. Sensing that Mitch is her only chance, Blanche is desperate to convince him that she is still young and innocent. When she invites Mitch to dance, Stanley becomes enraged at the interruption to his poker game and throws the radio out of the window. Stella is furious and pushes the friends to leave. Stanley, now drunk and feeling his territory invaded, attacks his wife. His friends manage to stop him and douse him in the bath while the two women run out onto the street. Stanley is full of remorse and calls out to Stella. Unable to resist her passion for Stanley and his need for her, Stella returns and is able to forgive, taking him into her arms.
The Next Morning
The next morning, Stanley and Stella are very loving towards each other and Blanche, who has spent the night with a neighbour, returns just as Stanley is going out. She sees Stanley as a monster and is desperate to get Stella packed and away before he returns, but Stanley comes back unexpectedly and overhears Blanche trying to turn his wife against him. Stella sees him in the doorway and leaps into his arms. Blanche feels isolated and imagines she is surrounded by "desire" in the form of couples locked in passionate embrace. She turns, as always, to drink.
Blanche and Mitch
Mitch arrives to take Blanche on a date and a sequence of short scenes show us their courtship over the long, hot summer. They dine, go boating, shelter from the rain and visit the movies. Blanche continues to put up a front of innocence and refuses Mitch any intimacy beyond a goodnight kiss.
Time has passed, and Stella is now heavily pregnant. Stanley arrives home with a letter from a friend telling him of Blanche’s promiscuous past. Having seen Blanche trying to ‘steal’ his wife, he is now determined to destroy Blanche’s chances with Mitch. He shows the letter to Stella and we see images of Blanche’s past encounters when she was living at the hotel.
Blanche discovers Stella begging Stanley not to show the letter to anyone. She asks to see it, but Stanley waves it before her eyes and leaves to do his damage. Blanche is terrified and imagines the letter and its contents being seen by everyone in town, including Mitch.
Mitch arrives, angry that he has been so deceived by tales of her innocent past. He has the letter and he tries to force himself on her before leaving in disgust. Alone, Blanche feels she has lost every chance for survival. In an echo of her youth, she dances her vulnerability as a moth, and the chorus of women echo her movements.
Blanche Retreats into Fantasy
When the doorbell rings Blanche is brought back to reality by the arrival of a Newspaper Delivery Boy. He reminds her of young Alan, and indeed Alan's ghost appears again to haunt her. She tries to seduce the Boy, but her hold on reality is so slight that the boy keeps turning into Alan. When the Boy leaves, she is alone, haunted by Alan and other figures from her past: his Young Lover and Young Blanche.
Feeling that she has nowhere to turn and that Stanley will throw her out, Blanche drinks heavily and continues to retreat into fantasy as she sees characters from her life coming towards her. She dresses up in an old ball dress and imagines she is the star attraction in her own life.
Blanche is brought suddenly back to sobriety and reality when Stanley appears. He is celebrating the birth of his child. She is terrified to be alone with him and defends herself with a broken bottle. Stanley, provoked, takes her by force.
Some days later we see Blanche, broken, being carefully dressed by Stella. She is preparing her for a trip to the mental hospital where Stanley has arranged for her to be committed. When the Doctor arrives, Blanche runs to Stella. Stella has to choose whether to protect Blanche or to be loyal to Stanley, and decides to stay with Stanley as Blanche leaves the apartment with the Doctor. Blanche now retreats into fantasy. She imagines the doctor is a friend and that she is in a field of flowers, the flowers for the dead we saw her buy in the street from the Mexican Flower Seller.
- Nancy Meckler