After tackling comedies like Four Weddings and an Elvis and The Dixie Swim Club, Odyssey Productions is ready to head in a new direction.
The Prince Albert theatre company is set to tackle one of their most challenging plays yet: Tennessee Williams’ gritty masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire.
The show, which originally debuted on Broadway in December 1947, touches on a variety of difficult themes, such as domestic violence, but the cast and crew are embracing the challenge.
“This is a show I’ve been asking Odyssey to do for years,” director Kim Morrall said. “It’s just one of the classics. It’s a play that has a lot of meaty roles for actors, and it’s a real challenge for the directors as well.”
The play marks a noticeable change of direction for the theatre company. Past productions have been more light-hearted and comedic, but with A Street Car Named Desire many cast members are treading new territory.
“This is my first non-comedy and it’s been a challenge,” said Chantelle Hovdebo, who portrays Stella Kowalski, the wife of the male lead Stanley Kowalski. “Having not lived in these people’s shoes before (and) never experiencing what they actually experienced, it’s been a real learning curve.”
The play tells the story of Blanche DuBois, who loses her home to creditors and moves to New Orleans to live with her sister, Stella, and brother-in-law, Stanley. It focuses on the volatile relationship between the characters, especially Stanley, who is prone to cruel violent outbursts, and the disintegration of Blache’s mental health in the face of the abuse.
Despite the play’s dark themes, cast members say there’s a message for in it for modern audiences.
“Tennessee Williams is commenting on the violence and the domestic abuse of his time,” said Mat Derworiz, who portrays Stanley. “But, as is all to obvious with news that comes out of Ottawa or out of Washington or Alabama, there’s a lot of scandal and a lot of this still going on.”
“I hope it gets them (audiences) thinking about the issues that they faced in that time, and I hope it makes them feel angry,” Morrall added. “I hope they are appalled by Stanley…. I want them to see truth in it.”
Faithfully portraying Williams’ tragic and flawed characters wasn’t Odyssey’s only challenge either. Finding the necessary props and costumes needed to turn the stage into a realistic depiction of the 1940s kept the group busy, as did nailing down the accents and demeanors of the characters.
“With lots of those details, you’ve got to move back a few generations and think how things were in the1940s,” Morrall chuckled. “There have been a few little challenges in that way, but I think we’re getting there.”
The Odyssey Productions performance of A Streetcar Named Desire runs from May 24-26 at the Prsince Albert Collegiate Institute. All shows start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Canadian Tire Customer Services, or at the door. The show is not suitable for young children.