All Aboard for ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in Arlington

TAP presents Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

The Arlington Players (TAP) is presenting Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” from Jan. 26 through Feb. 10. The winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize, the story directed by Michael Kharfen follows Blanche DuBois as she travels to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski and the drama that ensues.

Kharfen said he was trying to capture the tension between how we see the world as it is and how we would want the world to be. “In ‘A Streetcar Named Desire,’ the ethereal imagination of Blanche clashes with the raw reality of Stanley, Stella and Mitch. The characters are bound by their wishes and choices whether to find love and refuge or protect their home and way of living. In the play, they collide in a haunting resolution,” he said.

He said his biggest challenge was to put aside the previous productions of the play, particularly the memorable film, and find his own inspiration and vision while honoring Tennessee Williams’s perspective. “Fortunately, I have a gifted cast and inventive production team to achieve my insight into the play,” he said.

He added: “People can have noble intentions, but they are also flawed. Even though the play must be viewed as from the 1940s, we can still find enduring messages of sometimes finding ourselves lost, haunted by the past and facing difficult, if not desperate, choices.”

Marnie Kanarek is playing the role of Blanche, the epitome of the tragic heroine. “She is doomed from the beginning by circumstances that are beyond her control. She is a portrait of emotional depth — strong yet vulnerable, guilt-stricken and manipulative, driven by her desire, but ultimately misunderstood. It is not one thing but many: her past, her flaws, and the force that is Stanley Kowalski, that inevitably bring Blanche, and the play as a whole, to their dramatic conclusion,” she said.

She said a great challenge was finding and portraying the many varied layers of Blanche. “The beauty of this play is that no one is wholly good or bad. Blanche is acting out of survival; experience has shaded her interactions with everyone she encounters in the play. She has been irrevocably changed by her past and you should see that in her actions/reactions,” she said.

She added: “I hope the audience is transported to our French Quarter, into this famously tumultuous and ill-fated story, so that they might truly understand the impact one word, one choice, one event has on a life.”

Scott Stofko is playing the role of Mitch, the only one in his group of friends who isn’t completely thrilled with his current situation. “His life is shadowed with loss, and is looking to change his life and outlook on it. He immediately gravitates toward Blanche for that reason, and falls for her because they both share experiences in loss, and they both desire the change in life that they desperately need,” he said.

He said this is his first larger dramatic role, having been mostly cast in comedies with heavy slapstick and farce elements in other regional community productions. “I have been practicing restraint in my physicality and more emphasis in emoting because of this, and it is thrilling to see those character choices coming together so swiftly with my other highly talented cast members,” he said.

He added: “Tennessee Williams wrote this play in a time where people felt strongly about certain ideals, sexuality and races. He injects each character with these feelings that ultimately bring out the idea that having these prejudices are sinful and are ill-fitting in a modern setting. It is something that I hope people retain with them because most of these themes are still present today,” he said.

Nicholas Temple is playing the role of Stanley, who is loud and boisterous and always up for a good time. “He’s also a drunk and a wife beater. He knows what he wants, but rarely how to go about getting it, and that’s what makes him so dangerous,” he said.

He said that bad people are always a challenge to portray. “Your natural instinct is revulsion. “You can't give in to that gut response. In most instances, real people believe what that they're doing is right, even if the entire rest of the world knows otherwise.”

He continued: “So when you're onstage, you need to believe that whatever you're doing — no matter how revolting — is right. If you waver or waffle, the audience knows you're one of them — you're not Stanley Kowalski, setting his wife straight; you're just another voyeur cringing at domestic violence.”

He said when he’s played bad people in the past, they've always been clever ones. “That's a helpful hook because you know a smart character can always turn inwards and rationalize what they've done, one way or another. You can't do that with Stanley. Williams gave him no monologues; no moments of introspection or contemplation. There's no hint of an internal life. Stanley may be guilty, but he's also oddly guileless. Everything is a reaction and every bit of it is visceral.”

He added that “Streetcar’s” characters cannot accept change. “Blanche cannot cope with growing old. Stanley lashes out — violently — at the slightest sign his world might be different tomorrow than it is today. That rigidity is their ruin. Williams' play is a powerful reminder that that which cannot bend, breaks.”

Kimberly James is playing the role of Stella, a woman stuck between two worlds — the world she grew up in with her sister and the world she lives in now with her husband. “And she spends most of the play figuring out how to manage that,” she said.

She said that Stella makes some difficult choices throughout the course of the show, and her challenge was not to judge those choices as the actor. “Instead, I'm trying to lean into them and to understand how Stella's really just using the tools at her disposal to stay alive and keep going,” she said.

The Arlington Players is presenting Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” from Jan. 26 through Feb. 10. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $25/adults; $22/senior/military; $15/child/students. The venue is located at Gunston Theater One, 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington. Visit www.thearlingtonplayers.org.

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