Tickets are selling like hotcakes for EmSpace Dance‘s “A Hand in Desire”, a savvy dance-theater remix of Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

EmSpace’s redux infuses new blood into an old story about family, love, lust, violence and abuse, sexuality, and relationships. With such a dark combination of subject matters, it seems only fitting that “Hand” be performed down below Viracocha‘s storefront in the Mission, in its decked-out basement. Seating about 30-40 audience members, the intimate space lets you get up close and personal with “Hand”.

What: A Hand in Desire
When: Jan. 21-22 and 28-29, 8PM, Jan. 30 at 3:30PM
Where: Viracocha at 998 Valencia St @ 21st
Tickets:$20 (no one turned away for lack of funds); purchase online. Capacity is limited for this intimate show.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart and Wolfgang Lancelot Wachalovsky, the directors, have created something richly entertaining. Adeptly morphing from theater and contemporary dance to song and dialogue, there’s no one genre to which “Hand” belongs, and that’s part of the evening’s fun. Inspired by the poker games in “Streetcar,” the scenes here, for the most part, play out via a game of chance (Hearts) and a specialized 52-card deck. In essence, each show is unique. The 52 scenes use the play as a source of inspiration, driving home “Streetcar’s” main themes, but please, don’t expect anything resembling “Streetcar” to a T. This is not the F-line.

But however the evening plays out, you get the gist of “Streetcar,” including the complicated relationship between two sisters, their relationships with men, and their wants and needs. And Williams’ tale is no bedtime story, but it perseveres for its underlying grittiness and shock-and-awe themes.

desire-cards-lap_photoby_Jeff_Crook.jpgPhoto by Jeff Cook

The cast is quite a treat, especially Natalie Greene as Stella. She easily balances sweetness with concern, strength with love, and seemed to be the most at ease with the quick transitions from singing to speaking to dancing. Yet there are no one-trick ponies here, and all of the cast is quite strong.

But the real talent lies in how Stuart and Wachalovsky have cleverly crafted the evening. Stuart, especially, has a knack for using novel spaces and promoting artist interaction, and “Hand” is no different. The basement space may be the Viagra of theatrical mood enhancers. You descend the stairs (yes, stairs. Be prepared!) into a secret otherness, having been converted into a bar/card room/saloon. The performers are on hand and in character from the moment the first audience members steps down the stairs, so be prepared to feel slightly voyeuristic from the onset.

While I don’t want to spoil anything–part of “Hand’s” fun is seeing what comes next–I will say that “Cate Blanchett” may have been one of my favorites from last Friday’s performance. And Joshua Pollock and Chris Broderick’s folksy music with a touch of twang rooted everything nicely together.

This month kicks off Williams’ centennial celebrations throughout the country, and whether you’re a fan of his or not, “Hand” is worth seeing for its own merits. It is a refreshing twist on an old story. Be prepared for an invigorating, interactive, and exciting theater experience.

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the author

Becca Klarin writes about dance. Her first stage role was at the age of four, where she dressed in a brightly colored bumble bee tutu and black patent leather taps shoes. She remembers bright lights and spinning in circles with her eleven other bees, but nothing more. Becca also has an affinity for things beginning with the letter "P", including Pizzetta 211, Fort Point, pilates, parsvakonasana, and plies.

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