Synopsis

Act I

A working class New Orleans neighborhood on a spring evening in the late 1940s. Humidity rising off the river cloaks the streets in steamy decadence. On a street called Elysian Field, a primly dressed woman appears, carrying a suitcase. It’s Blanche Dubois, just off the bus from Laurel, Mississippi, searching for the home of her sister, Stella.

Blanche tells Stella that the family’s plantation home, Belle Reve, has been lost to creditors. She criticizes Stella for not appreciating her efforts to save the home on her meager high school teacher’s salary. She also makes a snide comment on her sister’s marriage to Stanley Kowalski, a tough talking World War II veteran, who she has yet to meet.

Stella urges Stanley to be nice to the emotionally fragile Blanche and not to mention that she’s pregnant. Stanley searches Blanche’s travel trunk for papers that might show Stella, and by extension her husband, inherited some value from Belle Reve. There is nothing. When Blanche and Stanley finally meet, they flirt.

Blanche, starved for affection, inquires about Mitch, one of Stanley’s pokerplaying buddies. Stanley, drunk and angry, breaks up the conversation, throws a small radio out the window, and slaps Stella. Remorseful, Stanley stands outside a neighbor’s house where his wife has fled. “Stella! Stella!” he cries, and sobs when she comes to him. Later, Stella tells Blanche that Stanley’s abusive behavior doesn’t bother her. It’s who he is.

Act II

Stanley tells Blanche he knows someone who says she spent time at the Flamingo Hotel, a shady establishment in Laurel. Blanche, visibly shaken, says it’s a mistake. Later, Blanche asks Stella if she’s heard any malicious gossip about her. A boy knocks at the door to collect money for the newspaper subscription. Blanche flirts with the young man, then tells him to leave.

Mitch arrives with roses for Blanche. Returning after their date, the two talk romantically. Blanche tells Mitch of a wrenching moment in her past. A young boy friend killed himself with a revolver after she discovered him in a dallianc with an older man. Mitch is emotionally drawn to Blanche and says they could be a couple.

Act III

Stanley has heard more about Blanche’s life in Laurel and gives Stella the sordid details. Blanche was soliciting men at the Flamingo Hotel until management ordered her to leave, he says. She was a plaything for troops at a local Army base. And she was fired from her teaching job after seducing a pupil. Stanley says he’s told these embarrassing stories to Mitch, who now isn’t likely to show up tonight for Blanche’s birthday dinner. Fed up with Blanche’s encroaching on his small house and his family privacy, Stanley hands Blanche a cruel birthday present: a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel.

Mitch arrives, drunk and disillusioned. Blanche admits she’s lived an imperfect life. Mitch, thinking Blanche is easy, starts to get physical. If you want that, then marry me, Blanche says. Mitch says she isn’t fit to be his wife. Blanche breaks down at Mitch’s rejection.

Blanche is packing her trunk for her return to Laurel. She’s been drinking for hours and tries on an evening gown and rhinestone tiara. Stanley arrives from the hospital where Stella is due to deliver their baby. He’s belligerent, saying he’s known all along that Blanche has been fibbing about her past. He makes a move on Blanche, she tries to defend herself, and the scene turns rough.

Several weeks have passed. The baby has arrived and is healthy. Blanche is confused when Stella tells her she’s going on vacation. It’s clear Blanche has become emotionally unhinged and that Stella has made a difficult decision about her sister. A doctor and a matron arrive from the state hospital. Blanche struggles at first, then slowly realizes what’s about to happen. She pulls herself together and with dignity restored, walks slowly out of the house with the doctor, telling him: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

- Performance notes by Eugene Carlson