#5: Stanley and Stella
It was the shout heard round the theatre world. When Marlon Brando took on the role of the Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William’s brilliant A Streetcar Named Desire, the theatre world responded to what was one of the most raw, brutal, and powerful performances in American theatre history. In practice, however, his marriage to the meek Stella just doesn’t work.
We’ve already covered the issue of physical and verbal abuse as well as being outright controlling and domineering above, so let’s view one of modern theatre’s great unhealthy relationships through another lens—why does Stanley act this way?
It’s tempting to say that he’s just a monster, with no feeling for Stella, but that famous outburst of remorse and shame—“Stella!”—would suggest otherwise.
It could be a lack of communication between the two of them; with Stella so mild and Stanley both not much for chitchat and commanding when he does talk, it’s easy to see how basic communication could break down, which is a fast track to a lot of unhealthy relationships, as we saw with Othello and Desdemona.
It could be the stress of Stanley’s job, that he doesn’t respect Stella, or that Stella just isn’t compatible with a person like Stanley—it could be a lot of things.
Ultimately, without proper communication, neither we nor they can ever know for sure, and their marriage is doomed to be as fragile as—dare we say it?—a Glass Menagerie.