By: Brooke Schultz
Whether they have seen it or not, “A Streetcar Named Desire” reminds people of the famous line, “Stella!” There’s more to the production than a screamed named, however.
“I was not very familiar with the play before I read it,” senior director Amanda Klute said, who made the connection because of the famous ‘Stella!’ scream. “My main objective in my production was to strip Brando, Vivien Leigh, 1948–all the iconography that has suppressed ‘Streetcar’ and portray a naked, honest piece of theatre that Tennessee Williams wrote.”
Klute has been involved in Washington College productions as a director for a small time, designer, actor, operator, but she’s mostly held the role of a stage manager, working on “Rancho Mirage,” “Clybourne Park,” “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” and “Middletown.”
“Directing is such a thrill to me, and I love experimenting, playing, failing, and trying again with my entire cast and crew,” Klute said. “I hope to continue this as a career.”
“A Streetcar Named Desire” follows sisters Blanche Dubois (sophomore Olivia Libowitz) and Stella DuBois Kowalski (freshman Madison Morton). After her life begins to fall apart, Blanche moves in with her sister and her husband, Stanley Kowalski (junior Caleb Powell). Klute described the play as illustrating “how chaotic and disastrous our internal wants, desires, and greed can be on our sanity.”
The play spanned several levels of scaffolding to break up where scenes were occurring, and was decorated with vines and plants. Two clothes lines stretched from the side of the balcony to one of the levels. The use of industrial lights added to the mood of the production, either bright and lively or subdued. Scattered bottles riddled the set, portraying the decrepit and worn-down atmosphere.
When Blanche first appeared in the play, she was dressed neatly, a sharp contrast to the scenery and to her sister, Stella, who wore her hair in a bun and overalls. The sisters were at ends not only in costume, but also in language. Libowitz portrayed Blanche as quick-worded and overbearing, often grabbing Stella or interrupting her before she had a chance to speak.
Morton played Stella as reserved and quiet, but didn’t want to make her seem weak. “In a lot of interpretations of ‘Streetcar,’ Stella’s kind of timid and afraid of Stanley and Blanche,” she said. “But, I kind of try to play Stella as more. She fights back, and she’s more stubborn with Stanley.”
Taking on such a big role in the first semester of her freshman year was intimidating, Morton said, but she had fun working with the cast and crew.
“I think a lot of what Amanda has been doing for me is bringing out the more stubborn, loud, strong-willed side of Stella,” Morton said. “When I initially got my script from her, she had marked out a lot of the stage directions that were like ‘Stella is crying, she’s timid, she’s nervous.’ She didn’t really want that.”
Morton said that Stella is surrounded by undesirable people, though Morton admitted that Stella isn’t the best person either, and she deeply cares for them despite their poor qualities.
Stanley demonstrated those poor qualities throughout the play. Powell portrayed Stanley as controlling, aggressive, and simple-minded. Stanley was a bit of a cliché, fitting the stereotype of the unappealing drunk and abusive husband. Throughout the play, Blanche makes it clear that Stella has lowered her standards by marrying him, but Stella is insistent.
Blanche’s character was large and encompassing. She often absorbed the dialogue of those around her, requested that people dote on her, and made herself right at home in a temporary living situation, but she was more than a dramatic and critical older sister. Subtly throughout the play, it was revealed that Blanche was dealing with her own psychological demons from her past, and they were slowly creeping up on her.
This was depicted by sophomores Mark Christie and Sofia Sidhu. Christie, among other roles, played the character of Allan Grey, the deceased husband of Blanche. He haunts the set, idling by the piano, or dancing with her when she tells a story about him.
Sidhu acted as a florist, who sat around different parts of the stage, crafting a flower crown. Throughout the play, she seemed detached from the actions going on around her, but near the end, she finally made a grander entrance, adding to the degradation of Blanche’s mental state.
Sophomore Danielle Glenn said the production affected her emotions more than she thought it would. “I don’t know a lot of the actors personally, but they couldn’t have picked better actors for the positions that were being played,” she said. “There was a lot of emotion that they had to convey that I couldn’t imagine doing myself.”
While the play dealt with heavy themes, comic relief was provided by seniors Ashley Warfield and Cole Capobianco, who played the Hubbells, the married couple living above the Kowalski’s, Senior Brian Gicking’s portrayal of Blanche’s suitor, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, also earned a few laughs from the audience during his kinder moments. The intermission featuring sophomore Michael DeMaio as a homeless saxophone player also received applause.
Senior Andrew Huelskoetter said it was the first time he’d seen the production done in the manner it was performed. “I really enjoyed it. The character development was very clear, and the plotline was very clear and well-developed. The set worked wonderfully with the levels portraying the characters, the lights showing the intensity and just how raw these emotions and characters were. And I was very impressed.”
Huelskoetter thesis production “Running” debuted earlier in the semester, and while he wasn’t involved with “A Streetcar Named Desire,” he had spoken with Klute as a peer and could see the direction she was pushing the production in. “I could definitely see Amanda Klute in this production,” he said. “The different take on the characters makes much more vulnerability, much more weakness, and much more intensity that I have never seen before with these characters.”
The performance was a unique twist on a well-known production that engaged anyone from a first time viewer to someone very familiar with the story.