Palm Beach Dramaworks Presents Tennessee Williams' A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, the Pulitzer Prize-winner that is on virtually every critic's short list of greatest American plays, opens Palm Beach Dramaworks' 2019-2020 season on Friday, October 11 (8pm) at the Don & Ann Brown Theatre. Performances continue through November 3, with specially priced previews on October 9 and 10 (7:30pm). J. Barry Lewis directs.
In a 1960 essay written for The New York Times entitled "Tennessee Williams Presents His POV [Point of View]," the playwright shared his thoughts on the vibrancy of contemporary drama. "The theatre has made in our time its greatest artistic advance through the unlocking and lighting up and ventilation of the closets, attics and basements of human behavior and experience," he wrote. What he left unmentioned was that A Streetcar Named Desire is generally considered the first American play to have blown the doors and windows off those closets and attics and basements.
Most of the best-known plays from the 1930s and '40s were realistic dramas that confronted social issues. Streetcar (1947) is concerned with emotion and passion rather than ideology and ideas.
The characters, the story, and the setting are true-to-life, but 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, hypersexuality, eroticism, nymphomania, rape, and spousal abuse. And 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 great insight and understanding. Stanley and Blanche are, of course, two of the most memorable characters ever created for the stage. When Blanche arrives in New Orleans to stay with her sister, Stella, in the cramped and dingy Kowalski apartment, the mutual antagonism between her and Stanley is instantaneous. Neither has a place in the other's world, and their growing hostility puts them on a collision course for a shattering confrontation.
PBD's production features Kathy McCafferty as Blanche DuBois; Danny Gavigan (PBD debut) as Stanley Kowalski; Annie Grier (PBD debut) as Stella Kowalski; Brad Makarowski (PBD debut) as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, Blanche's would-be suitor; and Julie Rowe; Gregg Weiner; Thomas Rivera; Suzanne Ankrum (PBD debut); Renee Elizabeth Turner; Michael Collins; and John Campagnuolo (PBD debut). Scenic design is by Anne Mundell, costume design is by Brian O'Keefe, lighting design is by Kirk Bookman, and sound design is by Abigail Nover (PBD debut).
A Streetcar Named Desire opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947, received a 30-minute standing ovation, and ran for 855 performances. The production was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Jessica Tandy as Blanche, Marlon Brando as Stanley, Kim Hunter as Stella, and Karl Malden as Mitch. Tandy, who won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, was the only one of those actors who did not appear in the 1951 film, which was also directed by Kazan. The part went to Vivien Leigh, who had portrayed Blanche in the 1949 London production directed by her husband, Laurence Olivier. Leigh went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Ironically, of the four leads, the only one who didn't take home an Oscar was Brando, who skyrocketed to fame as Stanley and has left an indelible imprint on the part. He lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.
Tennessee Williams, one of America's greatest playwrights, was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi in 1911. Beginning with The Glass Menagerie (1945) and continuing with A Streetcar Named Desire, he created a body of work that is passionate, lyrical, often violent, and always yearning, that sprang from his own loneliness and demons. His other best and best-known plays include Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo (Tony Award), Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Pulitzer Prize), The Night of the Iguana, Orpheus Descending, and Sweet Bird of Youth. Many of his plays were adapted for film, most memorably A Streetcar Named Desire (for which he wrote the screenplay), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo (for which he co-wrote the screenplay), Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Night of the Iguana. He also wrote many one-act plays and his prodigious output numbers over 100 works. In addition, Williams wrote the screenplay for Baby Doll, based on his one-act play, 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, and co-authored the screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer, based on his one-act play of the same name. He died in 1983.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.
Evening performances are Wednesday, Thursday, and select Sundays at 7:30PM, and Friday and Saturday at 8PM (except Saturday, October 26, which starts at 7PM). Matinee performances are Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee and Sunday evening performances. Individual tickets are $77, with specially priced preview tickets at $57 and Opening Night tickets at $92. Student tickets are available for $15, and Pay Your Age tickets are available for those 18-40. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visit palmbeachdramaworks.org. You can order online 24 hours a day.