Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Easily Overlooked Streetcar

Carte Blanche's STREETCAR opens next week

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Being really strange, new and novel, Youngblood Theatre’s Spirits To Enforce (which opens next week) has been foremost in my mind going into this month, but there are a number of really good plays that have opened in addition to it. Next Act’s The Value of Names is hugely entertaining. (It continues through May 2nd.)Milwaukee Chamber’s The Sweetest Swing In Baseball opens this weekend with a really impressive cast and a really funny script. Wisconsin Hybrid Theatre performs its unique brand of comedy on the classic opera Carmen later on this month . . . but the most conceptually interesting piece opening this month is the new Youngblood show . . . and so I haven’t had much time to consider another show opening that same weekend a bit further in from the lake . . .

 

 

On April 22nd, Carte Blanche Studios opens its production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Something of an American theatrical cliché, Arthur Miller’s classic drama just might be the single most popular 20th century American stage drama. It’ll be interesting to see what Carte Blanche will do with the piece. It’s all too easy to hold it at a distance and try to stage a reverent dramatic presentation, but there’s real grit, intensity in the script and it could really come across with vivid depth in a space as intimate as Carte Blanche’s studio theatre.

The show will be directed by Brian Bzdawka, who has worked around town a great deal. Bzdawka is the Artistic Director of the Greendale Community Theatre. This will be his first time directing a show at Carte Blanche and the first time a show has opened on its stage that was not directed by Carte Blanche Artistic Director Jimmy Dragolovich.

Carte Blanche will be focusing on creating an immersive atmosphere for the production featuring lights, sound, fashions and props that are all designed to play-up the intimacy of the space. The central conflict here should play out beautifully as it is being tackled by a really good pair of actors. Katrina Greguska plays fading Southern Belle Blanche DuBois. Greguska has largely played supporting characters with Carte Blanche, but her appearance in the central spotlight on a couple of different shows with the late Spiral Theatre showed a talent that could easily hold the center of an ensemble. Her performance in Extremities had the kind of intensity that it’ll be interesting to revisit here in the role of Blanche. Talented choreographer Samantha Paige plays Blanche’s sister Stella. Paige was really captivating in the center of things as Sally Bowles in Carte Blanche’s Cabaret. It’ll be interesting to see her without the benefit of music or dance playing a character who is inherently vulnerable. Playing the role of her husband is Clayton Hamburg. It’s difficult to imagine Stanley Kowalski and not think about a young Marlon Brando. This is a bit odd for me, as I’ve never actually seen the 1948 movie where he played the character. I’ve seen 2 or 3 other productions of the play and yet . . . I think of the character and I think Brando. Weird. So Hamburg’s talent onstage is going to be taxed playing the character, but I look forward to his performance here. Hamburg has proven to be one of the more interesting, young stage talents to emerge in Milwaukee in the past couple of years. He’s got a visceral, aggressive side that’s shown its way into some of his performances. It’ll be interesting seeing him play a character prone to aggression and violence.

Greguska, Hamburg and Paige have all had extensive experience on the intimate stage of the Carte Blanche Studio Theatre. That kind of extensive experience should lend an intimacy to the production. Joining them are Michael Traynor as Mitch and Mara McGhee as Eunice. Brad Novak and Vanessa Jimenez play multiple roles. Of particular note around the edges, talented comic actor Jordan Gwiazdowski plays bits of comic relief.

Carte Blanche’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire runs April 22nd through May 8th at Carte Blanche’s space on 1024 South 5th Street.  

 

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