Published: May 23, 2013
Playwright Tennessee Williams wasn't afraid to push some buttons.
In 1947, the Broadway debut of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play "A Streetcar Named Desire" shocked with sexual and violent scenes and harsh dialogue, but it also received 30 minutes of applause, according to multiple sources.
The Star Bar Players' production of "Streetcar" opens Friday.
Local actor and director David Plambeck is not out to reinvent the wheel, but to offer a production with strong acting.
"I think this is a character study more than anything else," Plambeck said. "Williams has drawn four very strong, individual, memorable characters in very uncomfortable situations. That's the value of the play. Sometimes a play is there to get your attention, and say, 'Hey, get out of your head. Look at this!' There's a lot of pain in there.
"Williams poured a lot of himself into those characters."
In fact, it's widely believed that Williams' sister Rose was the blueprint for Blanche. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and given a lobotomy that decimated her ability to speak. The character of Stella is thought to be based on Williams' mother, and Stanley is the amalgamation of the men Williams despised and was attracted to.
"Everything in his life is in his plays," said Elia Kazan, a noted director of many of William's plays, "and everything in his plays is in his life."
After the play's stage debut, it scorched across movie screens in 1951, winning four Academy Awards. Marlon Brando played Stanley Kowalski as a brute of a man who oozed with savageness and sensuality. His foil? His wife Stella's sister Blanche DuBois, played by Vivian Leigh, an alcoholic, deceitful, aging femme fatale.
Alysabeth Clements Mosley, Star Bar's artistic director, will play Blanche.
"We try to do iconic stuff when we can," Mosley said. "This time it was much more personal than it usually is. If I went to my grave without playing Blanche, I would take other people with me."
In the play, English teacher Blanche arrives at her sister's tiny, urban apartment in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The family estate has been lost, and her school has given her a leave of absence.
As Blanche becomes romantically involved with Stanley's friend Mitch, Stanley discovers a tangled web of lies Blanche has raveled.
Mosley has always had her sights set on Blanche, a character she feels great empathy for. "I've known and loved people similar to Blanche in my life," she said. "I've seen lots of productions when people didn't understand or empathize with her, and when they don't understand her, they play her unkindly."
It's not her first time doing Williams. Her first big acting role was Laura in "Glass Menagerie," and eventually Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Age-wise, now is the right time for her to play Blanche, she said. "You can age gracefully through his plays."
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.
"A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE"
Who: Star Bar Players
Directors: Stephanie Mathewsonand David Plambeck
Cast: Alysabeth Clements Mosley, Crystal Carter, Dylan Mosley, Mark Sullivan
When: Opens 8 p.m. Friday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Industry Night is 7:30 p.m. Sunday; then 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays and 4 p.m. Sundays; Second Saturday Salon, with talkback and party after the show, is June 1; runs through June 9
Where: Theatre ’d Art, 128 N. Nevada Ave.
Tickets: $15, $12 senior, military and veterans, $6 students at door only, Sunday shows are pay what you can; 357-5228, firstname.lastname@example.org, starbarplayers.org