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Oleanna and Street Car Named Desire

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Compare the theatrical techniques and staging in act one of Oleanna and Street Car Named Desire

The two plays Street car named desire and Oleanna are very different plays in their use of theatrical devices. Tennesse Williams’ play Street Car Named Desire gives us a long description of the New Orleans world its based in. Describing the flats with the name “elysan fields” relating the to heaven despite the appearance of the street that seems “falling apart at the fabric of the seems”, the colour of the sky “tender blue”, even the smell of “bananas and coffee” making the set described seem more exotic with the imagery of plantations. Whilst in David Mamet’s play Oleanna we are simply told how Carol is sitting opposite John who is sitting at his desk on the phone. The audience isnt given a description of the desk other than that there is a desk, a phone and two characters.

Another theatrical technique used extensively in Street Car Named Desire is costume. Blanche’s vast costume range and seemingly expensive at some what out of place in the New Orleans’ world helps to demonstrate to the audience how she is different to everyone else. Especially in comparisson to Stanley who is simply wearing work clothes or solid colour shirts, which in the play symbolise his strength and simplicity. However there is no comstume description at all which leaves us to imagine the two characters costumes. We see john in perhaps a suit as a sterotypical professor, whilst Carol’s costume is much harder to imagine due to the lack of information we are given about her.

The stage directions in Oleanna are also much more simplistic than those of Street Car Named Desire. They are used to show either the akwardness between the two characters symbolised by the pauses that are used throughout the play during the characters lines or in the middle of their speeches. In Street Car Named Desire they are used to show the body language between characters, it sets the tone of the characters lines, the expressions they portray, actions that they carry out, and also what is happening in the background. Oleanna doesn’t seem to include stage directions other than the phone ringing and John either igonoring it or picking it up.

Lighting is also an important theatrical technique used in Street Car Named Desire. It is especially utillised in Almadova’s fim interpretation of the play, as he uses the strong primary coloured lighting pallette throughout. Stanley and the boys are given strong primary colours, shown by what they wear and the description of the room often red and blue. This is excluding Mitch who wears checked or soft colour shirts to highlight his difference to the other men in the play. Whilst Blanche has to hide from the “natural light” and cover it with paper laterns, in an attempt to hide from the cruel reality of life. In Oleanna there is no mention of lighting so again it is up to the audience or director to imagine how the single room would be lit.

Music and sounds are another theatical technique often used is Street Car Named Desire. The blues piano is often heard in the background of act one and throughout the play. Linking to the culture of New Orleans and the political freedom and less disrciminatory nature of the area. There is also the sound of the train that symbolises Stanley and his power and masculinity . The polka tune that blanche hears in her head relating to her past and the “young boy” linking to her happy past, that ends with the sound of a shot. Much like convesation stops with the phone ringing in Oleanna as John gets carried away in his personal life. However other than the phone there isnt any other music or sounds in Oleanna other than the silence inbwtween lines from the pauses.

In conclusion Street Car Named Desire uses a vast amount of theatrical techniques and staging in act one. I believe this is because Tennesse Willaims wants his play to be seen in a certain way so that his vision can be seen clearly, so therefore through the use of: costumes, lighting, colours, stage directions and staging he creates a mini-world for us so that his play can come to life. Whilst Mamet leaves his play oopen to interpretation apart from the main parts of it. This might be Mamet’s way of howing how despite time moving on through the forty or fifty years between the plays life becomes more ambigous as we become less sure of reality rather than more sure as we discover new things that we can interpret in our own ways.

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