Dramaworks’ opens season with ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

The play by Tennessee Williams runs Oct. 11 through Nov. 3 at the Don and Ann Brown Theatre in downtown West Palm Beach.

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By ROBERT HAGELSTEIN
Blogger at lacunaemusing.blogspot.com
Sept. 28, 2019

Arguably one of the best American plays of the 20th century and clearly a game changer as to how it dealt with sexual conquest and raw emotion, “A Streetcar Named Desire” opens at Palm Beach Dramaworks Oct. 11 at the Don and Ann Brown Theatre in downtown West Palm Beach and continues through Nov. 3.

Until “Streetcar” (1947), most plays were realistic dramas that confronted social issues. However, “Streetcar” deals with strong emotional and psychological issues and passion rather than ideology and ideas. The characters, the story and the setting are true to life, but Tennessee Williams added layers of lyricism and symbolism, broadening the bounds of realism. 

Mostly, he shocked and disturbed audiences with characters who speak of or engage in behavior that was rarely addressed on the stage at that time: homosexuality, eroticism, nymphomania, rape and spousal abuse. But he didn’t pass judgment. He treated the struggles of all his characters, from Blanche DuBois, the frightened, fraudulent, fading Southern belle with a tenuous grip on reality, to her brutish, violent brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski with insight and understanding.

This is also about two worlds colliding – the old, genteel south and the post-WW II scene, as an agrarian economy and fading plantations finally bowed to the industrial revolution. Blanche is a refugee from the old world, while Stanley represents the sledgehammer of the new. Williams uses symbolism and poetic language to create a drama which became an instant classic.

Is Dramaworks ready to tackle this challenge? 

“Our approach is to take it to the stage as written, bringing the voice of Williams to life,” says J. Barry Lewis, the play’s director. “We’re not reinterpreting, but bringing it to our audience who undoubtedly know the story. It’s almost like they’re revisiting an old friend, but in so doing, finding new things.” 

Lewis adds that the actors’ interpretations of their respective roles is what makes this production special.

“Depicting the iconic roles of Stanley, Blanche, Stella, and Mitch, is critical to our production and we are fortunate enough to have four actors playing those roles who bring strong interpretations – their own visions – to the roles,” he says. “It’s a classic work of theatre for a reason in its timelessness, visual and wide-ranging view of human nature. This means deeply mining the resources of our theatre company, backstage, design and of course the actors.” 

Danny Gavigan, a Dramaworks newcomer, plays Stanley Kowalski. He has starred in some of the leading American dramas of the 20th century, including Everyman Theatre’s production of “Streetcar.” 

Dramaworks veteran Kathy McCafferty, previously seen as Regina in “The Little Foxes” and as Rosemary in “Outside Mullingar,” plays one of the greatest roles for an actress in American theatre – Blanche Dubois. Every actress who has played this role has commented on the emotionally exhausting nature of performing it and veteran McCafferty is sure to place her own imprint on this role.

The key roles of Stella and Mitch are played by Dramaworks newcomers Annie Grier (Stella Kowalski) and Brad Makarowski (Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, Blanche’s would-be suitor). Rounding out the cast is Julie Rowe, Gregg Weiner, Thomas Rivera, Suzanne Ankrum, Renee Elizabeth Turner, Michael Collins and John Campagnuolo. 

Scenic design is by Anne Mundell, while costume design is by resident designer Brian O’Keefe. Kirk Bookman handles lighting design, and sound design is by Abigail Nover in her Dramaworks debut.

Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production of Streetcar is slated to be the must-see play of the South Florida 2019/2020 season. 

“A Streetcar Named Desire” runs Oct. 11 through Nov. 3. Palm Beach Dramaworks is at 201 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach. For tickets, call the box office at (561) 514-4020 or go online to palmbeachdramaworks.org.

Pictured above: From left, Danny Gavigan (Stanley), Annie Grier (Stella) and Kathy McCafferty (Blanche) star in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The production runs Oct. 11 through Nov. 3 at Palm Beach Dramaworks in downtown West Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Dramaworks

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