BY DENNIS TAYLOR
Special to keysnews.com
At an age when many are thinking “retirement,” the Waterfront Playhouse is still going strong, as it continues its 62nd annual season with the opening of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which runs from tonight through Feb. 23. One of the most famous of Tennessee Williams’ classic dramas, the play features a riveting story, haunting characters and some of the most famous “lines” in popular culture.
The wrenching growl of “Stella!” was coined for live performances in a venue very much like the Waterfront Playhouse. It was written by Williams, a former resident of Key West, who penned an enduring story where the unbridled passion of the tale can be conveyed best by talented actors performing live on stage.
“Williams liked the Waterfront Playhouse and took to its stage for a number of readings during his later years,” said George Gugleotti, president of the Waterfront Playhouse and director or “Streetcar.”
“Tennessee Williams wrote much of the play, set entirely in New Orleans, while he was in Mexico. He had three other titles picked out for the piece – ‘The Moth,’ ‘Blanche’s Chair in The Moon’ and ‘The Poker Night.’ ”
Today, it would be hard to imagine this famous classic with any name other than “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
“I don’t want realism, I want magic,” pleads the tragically self-deluded Blanche DuBois in this heartbreaking story of a faded and threadbare belle who rejects and ignores the realities of life, even as she is reduced to living with her sister and coarse brother-in-law.
“I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers,” explains Blanche, but her collision with the gritty reality of working-class New Orleans consumes her frail sensibilities, ultimately pushing her deeper into madness.
The play features 12 main cast members as well as extras, and offers excellent performances by both veteran talents and some fresh faces to Key West stages.
George di Braud, a 14-year resident of Key West, portrays Blanche DuBois.
Theater-goers will have also seen her in “The Food Chain,” “Breaking Legs,” “Keely and Du” and last year’s “How I Learned To Drive.”
Eugenia Andruchowicz plays Blanche’s sister, Stella Kowalski. A transplant to Key West from Seattle, Andruchowicz has appeared locally in “The Vagina Monologues,” “Betty’s Summer Vacation” and “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan.”
Mitch is played by Mark Buckner, a new arrival from Scottsdale, Ariz., who attended the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and recently completed film work including two television pilots.
Scott Gilmore, the playhouse’s artistic director, has lived in Key West for nearly a decade. For the past four years, he has appeared in each of the Waterfront’s presentations of a Tennessee Williams play. This season he brings to life the unforgettable Stanley Kowalski, Blanche’s earthy tormentor. Audience members will also remember Gilmore from “La Bete” and “Popcorn.”
“? One of the most magical aspects of live theater is that it exists exclusively while the performance is going on,” said Gilmore, who believes, “You haven’t really seen ‘Streetcar’ until you’ve seen the play.”
Box office manager Paul Hilson described the new season of live performances: “For years we have worked hard to bring high-quality stage productions to Key West audiences. This season is further evidence of our efforts and of the importance of live theater in our community.”
Fans will want to mark their calendars for upcoming plays and events at the Waterfront Playhouse. On March 17, the 62nd birthday party for the playhouse will be held. The benefit raises money to support a variety of playhouse efforts including the Outreach Program that introduces local high school students to the theater.
Additional productions this season include the hilarious and bittersweet musical “Moscow” and George F. Walker’s outrageous “Heaven” on the main stage. “The Second Stage” series highlights the Waterfront Playhouse’s historic and intimate venue, perfect for presenting these superbly written plays exploring diverse cultural themes.
So “grab a streetcar named desire” and hang on for an emotional ride with this gem of modern theater. Individual tickets are $25. For information, call 294-5015.
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