Camille Paglia describes a familiar scene, and makes it new:
Marlon Brando, carrying a “red-stained package” from the butcher and sporting blue-denim work clothes as the lordly, proletarian Stanley Kowalski, ambles insolently onstage at the opening of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. “Bellowing” for his adoring yet tart-tongued wife, Stanley is the strutting male animal in his sexual prime. The setting is a seedy tenement in the multiracial French Quarter of New Orleans, whose picturesque verandas open to the humid air. Street sounds and sultry, insinuating jazz riffs float in and out.
The exotic location, boisterous energy, and eruptions of violence in A Streetcar Named Desire were a startling contrast to the tightly wound gentility of Williams’s prior hit play, The Glass Menagerie (1944), whose fractured family is cloistered in a stuffy St. Louis flat. Streetcar exploded into the theater world at a time when Broadway was dominated by musical comedies and revivals. At the end of its premiere, the audience sat numb and then went wild, applauding for thirty minutes.
From A New Literary History of America, ed. by Greil Marcus, among others.