Just as Blanche DuBois famously depends on “the kindness of strangers” in “Streetcar Named Desire,” so, too, does the actress who’s playing her on stage right now, Cate Blanchett.
And she got it Friday night when no less than the Best Actress in the World, Meryl Streep, made sure to see Blanchett’s stunning performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music at the production’s second official showing. Streep arrived early accompanied by her sister-in-law, Emmy-winning soap star Maeve Kinkead (”Guiding Light”). Her tickets had been arranged by director Mike Nichols, who was also in the house with a friend. There was almost a little hiccup in the plan, though, as Meryl suddenly couldn’t find her tickets just before the show was supposed to start.
A quick check of all pockets proved fruitless. But then, there they were, in a zipper compartment in her handbag. Ladies, oy vey! with those handbags.
Anyway, the sold-out house for the three-hour Tennessee Williams play was dotted with well-known faces. Christine Baranski and actor husband Matthew Cowles were also in the house, as were “This Is It” director Kenny Ortega, who came with young “Gossip Girl” star Chace Crawford. Not bad for a 50-year-old play being performed in an outer borough!
After the many standing ovations, Blanchett entertained guests downstairs in her dressing area. She and Streep hugged, and joked about doing a vampire movie together. Blanchett says her only plans when this run is over is to go home to Australia and be with her family. The Oscar winner doesn’t have a movie lined up yet. “There’s nothing I’ve read that’s any good,” she told me. But I must say it was quite amazing to be with the two best actresses in the world today even for a couple of minutes. And Meryl, as usual, was full of genuine, gushing praise and admiration for Blanchett.
But everyone is. Blanchett’s similarly named Blanche is a tour de force, as is the direction of the play under the legendary Liv Ullmann. Streep and Kinkead each marveled at seeing the play directed by a woman. Under Ullmann’s guidance, this “Streetcar” is not about Stanley Kowalski (played with enormous strength and originality by Joel Edgerton) but about Blanche and Stella (Robin McLeavey). Plus, Mitch is even more of a linchpin as played by Tim Richards. “Streetcar” — one of the most well known plays in history — seems new and refreshed in this version. The players are all excellent, but Blanchett is simply stratospheric. It’s a shame the Sydney Theater Company production isn’t on Broadway, or won’t last longer than Dec. 20.