“Streetcar” in Paris, Hold the T-Shirt

When the fabled Comédie-Française chose the first American play it would perform in its 330 years, producers promised a fresh French approach to Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire.”

They hinted that an androgynous Stanley Kowalski would trade his form-fitting T-shirt for a brief appearance in the nude. They debated whether Blanche DuBois and Stella should switch from traditional French accents to spicy Louisiana Creole.

But in the end—with firm guidance from a New York director with a long career in avant-garde theater—the company went for a fantasy world of sliding Japanese screens painted with menacing waterfalls and warriors, masked kurogo figures in black, and a longhaired Stanley in baggy pants and a satin tiger jacket. The undershirt? Replaced by a bath towel. It barely covers key parts of Stanley as he shouts for Stella, who descends toward him like a stringed puppet in billowing white drifts.

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