‘A Streetcar Named Desire’
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 13-28
Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero
$17, $15 seniors
(708) 656-1800; www.jpactheatre.com
A totally fresh production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is being staged at Jedlicka Performing Arts Center. That’s because neither director Christopher Pazdernik nor actors Kirstin Franklin (Blanche) and Carl Herzog (Stanley) have ever seen a production of this Tennessee Williams play.
That’s not to say they are unprepared. All three of them have been diligently studying the work, as have the rest of the actors.
The director recalled that the first day of rehearsal he told the cast, “There’s a lot of baggage that comes with a show like ‘Streetcar.’ People have their memories of Marlon Brando in the movie or any number of successful Broadway revivals.
“The only way that I knew how to approach it without being slavish to somebody else’s idea,” he revealed, “was to approach it as a new play.”
Pazdernik did extensive reading about the play before the rehearsals started. Then he gathered the actors in his home. “We did a week where we sat around my living room and dissected the play, scene by scene,” he said. “We found it to be very helpful because these characters are so nuanced and complex.”
Actor Franklin is a company member with Akvavit Theatre, which specializes in contemporary Nordic plays.
“I love Tennessee Williams so much. He’s one of my favorite playwrights,” Franklin declared. She was still surprised — but delighted — to be cast as the fragile, neurotic Blanche DuBois, who surprises her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley by unexpectedly showing up at their door.
“I always thought that I was more of a Laura from ‘The Glass Menagerie,’” she joked. “But I love ‘Streetcar’ so much.”
“I don’t have a lot in common with (Blanche) but I can relate to some of the struggles that she’s going through,” Franklin added. “I can relate to that idea of being an outsider. When I first got to Chicago I felt like an outsider because it’s a very tight-knit theater community and I had no idea how I was going to break into that.”
The actor has a great deal of empathy for her character. “She’s had more struggles in her life than most people should ever have to deal with at such a young age,” Franklin said. “That’s what’s so sad about Blanche. She’s looking for love. She’s looking for desire.”
Herzog said that he wanted the role of Stanley “because I knew I was going to learn a lot and that has been my goal in Chicago to perfect my craft.”
The actor, who graduated in the spring of 2012 from Southern Illinois University, came to Chicago in January.
Herzog described Stanley as “an alpha male. He’s a silverback gorilla. He is very territorial, he’s a leader and he likes things to go his way.”
He has prepared for the role by reading the script over and over again. Herzog has seen the movie version of “Streetcar.”
“I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about Brando’s performance when I’m doing it,” he declared, jokingly added, “But I’m not above stealing things.”
“We have few playwrights in the history of contemporary American drama as brilliant, intriguing and illuminating as Tennessee Williams,” Pazdernik declared. In ‘Streetcar,’ the playwright “really taps into a very universal conflict that a lot of people can relate to. In this show, it is Blanche’s living in her fantasy world when her reality becomes too difficult to accept.”
Most people don’t go to that extreme, but the director noted that many of us would like to “wish ourselves away from all the problems that we have.”