Hilberry offers an edgy staging of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

Photo illustration by Chuk Nowak Wayne State University's Hilberry Theatre presents Tennessee Williams' “A Streetcar Named Desire” Nov. 3 to 19, with Nick Stockwell (left) as Stanley Kowalski and Wesley Cady as Blanche DuBois. For tickets or more information call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.

Photo illustration by Chuk Nowak
Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre presents Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” Nov. 3 to 19, with Nick Stockwell (left) as Stanley Kowalski and Wesley Cady as Blanche DuBois. For tickets or more information call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.

 

Untitled-1In an era of widely publicized sexual harassment, Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre offers an edgy staging of the Tennessee Williams classic “A Streetcar Named Desire” which pits Southern belle Blanche DuBois against her street smart and coarse brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski.

The show show runs 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18; 7 p.m. Nov. 9 and 16; 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 8, 11 and 18; and 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the theater, 4743 Cass, Detroit.

The Pulitzer-prize winning drama, set in the French Quarter in New Orleans in the late 1940s, follows Blanche DuBois, who comes to live with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley following the loss of the family home. She immediately begins to clash with Stanley, which escalates over time and ultimately ends tragically.

Director David Magidson said Stanley’s final conflict with Blanche is neither a power struggle nor a seduction, but a “forceful violation.”

“Blanche has gone off the edge, has had a nervous breakdown and is an alcoholic,” he said. “Now she is in Stanley’s world and he has no feeling for her at all. The assault has always been seen as a rape that reveals who Stanley really is.”

Nick Stockwell, who plays Stanley Kowalski, said he initially despised the character because of his rape of Blanche and his physical abuse of Stella.

“I needed to find the humanity in Stanley, or else the audience would immediately view Stanley as the bad guy from the beginning,” he said. “He comes from nothing and works hard. He survived World War II, and he loves Stella.

“Then Blanche comes into his world, holding on to her past, acting entitled, making no effort to change for the future. He can’t throw her out or it will ruin his relationship with Stella. It puts him in an incredibly difficult situation and the only solution that he sees is a dark one.”

Wesley Cady, who plays Blanche DuBois, said the role is complicated, with a character who is often mislabeled as crazy or manipulative.

“I think that Blanche can be very good at manipulation, but uses it as a tool to find protection and safety,” she said. “She has been through a lot and has no support structure.

“Today is still a difficult time to speak openly about mental health, and you can imagine being a woman in the 1940s having to deal with those issues. Blanche just wants to find her place in this new world and to finally feel safe.”

Cady said it is challenging to realistically portray Blanche’s slow breakdown throughout the play.

“I never want to portray a character dealing with mental issues as ‘crazy,’” she said. “I tried to really make sure I know why Blanche is doing what she is doing. She can be funny and grief-stricken within two pages, which is a hard swing to pull as an actor.”

Cady credits the strong cast for making her feel safe while playing the violent and emotionally heavy scenes.

“That safety net allows me to explore those darker places, and to be able to come back out of that with their help,” she said.

Others in the cast include Lani Williams as Stella Kowalski, Brandon Wright as Steve Hubbell, Breayre Tender as Eunice Hubbell, Christianno DeRushia as Pablo Gonzalez, Cody Robison as Mitch, Jackson Abohasira as the young collector, Quint Mediate as the doctor, Ryann Woods as the Mexican woman and Sarah Summerwell as the matron.

Tickets are $27, with a $5 discount for seniors, alumni, faculty and staff, and a $10 discount for students with identification. For more information or to order call 313-577-2972 or go to theatreanddanceatwayne.com.

WEBBER’S ‘LOVE NEVER DIES’ SITS IN THE SHADOW OF ‘PHANTOM’

The Fisher Theater’s season opener, “Love Never Dies,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his much-beloved and highly acclaimed “Phantom of the Opera” pales in comparison to the original both musically and in intensity, despite a talented cast, beautiful costumes and dazzling sets.

Remaining performances are at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Oct. 28 and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit.

The show made its North American debut at the Fisher Oct. 17, but the press were not invited until the second week of the run, limiting the impact of reviews. The show has undergone extensive changes from prior productions, and critics were not kind to earlier versions.

“Love Never Dies” is set 10 years after the time period of “Phantom.” Christine, now an acclaimed opera singer, is unhappily married to Raoul, who drinks heavily and has lost a fortune gambling. They, along with their 9-year-old son, travel to New York City for financial relief and a fresh start.

Unknown to them, the Phantom, with the help of Meg and Madame Giry, fled to NYC 10 years earlier and built a new life for himself on Coney Island where he stages shows, and now hopes to win back Christine.

The music, which made “Phantom” such a worldwide success, pales by comparison in “Love Never Dies,” and the title song is the only one most audiences will remember past the curtain call. The musical is not the showcase for amazing operatic voices that “Phantom” will always be.

The costumes are colorful and spectacular, from the sideshow performers to the burlesque dancers to Christine’s stunning peacock-inspired performance gown.

The sets are ever-changing, and capture the darker side of a carnival, and both the onstage and backstage elements of the Phantom’s Coney Island performance venue.

The cast is superb, and many of the ensemble sideshow characters are uniquely memorable.

At the Oct. 25 performance Jake Heston Miller was superb as Christine’s young son, Gustave, and has a pure soprano voice that is a joy to hear.

The show moves quickly and has an interesting story line, but it is not equal to the original in sheer intensity or musically.

For tickets, call 800-982-2787 or go to broadwayindetroit.com or ticketmaster.com.