‘Streetcar Named Desire’ returns to Pittsburgh for North Side show
Since founding Barebones Productions in 2003, Patrick Jordan has created a niche by staging edgy, new plays that would otherwise not be done here.
But he likes to insert the occasional curve ball in his seasonal planning.
So, Jordan chose Tennessee Williams’ classic 1947 drama “A Streetcar Named Desire” to follow the Pittsburgh premiere of the very contemporary “A Steady Rain.”
“It’s only the second time in 11 years that we have done something that was performed here before,” says Jordan, who also serves as Barebones’ artistic director.
Jordan will play Stanley Kowalski in the production that runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 6 at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.
“A Steady Rain” had a minimal set — two chairs and a desk — and two actors. “Streetcar” has a cast of 11, multiple realistic settings, a multitude of props and period costumes. It also has music created by Joe Grushecky and John Gresh that will be performed live for select performances.
Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in the years just after World War II, it’s a story of passion, identity and family.
“It catches that time in America that’s just post-war and the country is about to boom but hasn’t,” Jordan says.
Stella and Stanley come from different economic backgrounds: Stella grew up on an upper-class estate, while Stanley is working-class. When Stella’s mentally fragile sister, Blanche, unexpectedly arrives at their door, hoping for a new start in a new town, she upsets the Kowalskis’ already-uneasy relationship.
Since its 1947 opening on Broadway, “A Streetcar Named Desire” has been revived in New York eight times — most recently in 2012 — and been performed numerous times by regional theater companies.
Many more have seen the 1951 black-and-white film with Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Vivien Leigh.
Others know it only from the much-repeated film clip of Brando’s Stanley howling his wife’s name, or use quotes from the show, such as “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers,” without knowing where the lines originated, Jordan says.
“Everybody thinks they know it,” he says. “It hasn’t been done here since 1997 when Starlight Productions did it.”
The Barebones production will give audiences and actors a chance to discover the show they think they know.
At the first rehearsal, director Melissa Martin told the cast to erase everything they knew or thought about the drama, Jordan says. “She told us to go back to the words on the page,” he says.
“It’s dense. Every line has something to it,” he says. “When it was first done, it was shocking. It still is if we do it correctly. The stuff that happens is so real and it’s still happening. It’s like an Everest of a play. But if done right, it’s so good.”