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"Streetcar" is No Period Piece at Falcon Theatre

Delusion is shattered by harsh reality when a pair of iconic characters face-off. Fading southern belle Blanche DuBois is confronted by her merciless brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski in post-WWII New Orleans in Tennessee Williams’s classic A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s on stage at Falcon Theatre in Newport March 16-31.

Nate Netzley directs and the Northern Kentucky University grad (2014) says Streetcar is the rare mid-20th century play that is timeless, which is why he is being fearless about bringing the action to the present day.  

“I think to get at the heart of the play, you need to divorce it from the nostalgia we associate with the post-World War II era. Williams wasn't writing a period piece, he was writing a piece that took place in his present day," Netzley said. “He wasn't wanting us to look at Blanche, Stanley, Stella, and Mitch from afar as relics but the complicated modern people he was writing. He was writing about a country and a people in transition and boy, are we in a transitional period as a country.”

At Falcon, a quartet of indelible characters are played by Tara Williams (Blanche), Phineas Clark (Stanley), Ellie Margolis (Blanche’s pregnant sister Stella), and Charlie Roetting (Mitch, a naïve nice guy smitten by Blanche).

In casting Streetcar, Netzley said, “I was looking for people who made strong, bold choices. People who weren't trying to do impressions of the actors and actresses that had done these roles before. People who had an understanding of these characters as the complicated people that Williams wrote. He once said that this play was a ‘plea for the understanding of the delicate people.’ He didn't just mean Blanche.

"Each of these characters are delicate in their own way. Each of them are dealing with worlds of trauma and how they deal with that trauma and try to escape it is how the conflict of this play comes about.”

Netzley promises that the actors will re-introduce characters that “so many people think they already know.”

He firmly believes that Streetcar holds the same appeal for today’s audiences, including young adult audiences, is it did when it debuted 70 years ago. “It's a play about desire, love, trauma, class, sex and sexism, what we define as truth, and countless other things. It still inspires theatre practitioners and patrons alike," he said. "You bring your own history to this play and the audience will do the same.”

Netzley is making bold choices in terms of designing Falcon’s intimate and challenging playing space. Set designer Theron Wineinger is a College-Conservatory of Music grad and recent winner of the (very big deal) USITT W. Oren Parker Undergraduate Scene Design Award.

Josh Newman returns to Falcon as costumer and Netzley also recruited James Allen to compose music.

“I think they each are bringing a hunger and a desire to leave their own mark on such an iconic play. I told each of them that what I was going for was ‘Classic Influence. Modern Touch.’

“Theron really used the intimacy of the space to his advantage. We have evoked a claustrophobic starter apartment on the edge of the French Quarter. James has brought a timeless feel to the music he has composed for this play and I am so excited for our audiences to hear it. Josh helps to bring a vibrancy to the characters. He doesn't just clothe them, he endows them. They were all excited about bringing the play to the modern day.”

Netzley has been a real presence on the area’s indie theater scene for the last few years but it looks like that’s about to change. After a stint as part of Educational Theatre Association’s on-site staff for the 2018 International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska in June, Netzley is planning to leave the area.

“I cannot thank the artistic community of the Queen City enough for their education, support, and fostering of my directing abilities but in order to grow, I need to test myself in new environments. But this won't be the last show I ever do in Cincinnati. It's just the end of my first act.”

A Streetcar Named Desire, March 16-31. Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. All performances 8 p.m. Tickets $22, $15 students with ID. $5 discount on Thursdays. For tickets, click here.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

Photo: Tara Wilson, Phineas Clark, Ellie Margolis (by Kristy Rucker/provided)

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