The Denver Center Theatre Company is heating things up this winter with a new production of Tennessee Williams's sizzling drama A Streetcar Named Desire. In a twist on the award-winning classic, the DCTC show will feature an all-African-American cast. "To do Streetcar with an all-black cast was a challenge that I wanted to see if I could do, if we could do," says DCTC director Israel Hicks. "I'm constantly looking for new material for actors of color, and it was a body of work that appealed to me because of its nuances and subtleties."
Set in New Orleans in the late 1940s, A Streetcar Named Desire is the story of Blanche DuBois (played by Kim Staunton), a schoolteacher running from her past who steps into her sister Stella Kowalski's (played by January LaVoy) tumultuous marriage to World War II veteran turned auto-parts salesman Stanley Kowalski (played by Terrence Riggins).
"It was fairly easy to adapt," says Hicks, noting that he changed minor background details, including Stella and Blanche's family history and Stanley's military background. "I wanted to make it realistic about a black family in the South in the 1940s. I've taken a little latitude, but I haven't changed the basic story at all."
"Obviously, to have lasted this long, the story is strong enough to stand on its own," he adds. "I think that the changes we made give it a different perspective."
Preview performances begin tonight at 8 p.m.; the play officially opens on January 15 and will run through February 14 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
"We've done other Tennessee Williams plays, but this is the first time that we've done Streetcar," says Denver Center spokesman Chris Wiger. "Israel likes to do things that are out of the ordinary, and this certainly qualifies. It's an amazing cast, and they really make it a remarkable show."
Tickets for A Streetcar Named Desire, which opens the DCTC's Silver Season alongside the Anthony Powell-directed Visiting Mr. Green, are $16 to $43. There are a variety of evening and matinee shows, including an audio-described/ ASL performance at 1:30 p.m. January 10; for a complete schedule, visit www.denvercenter.org. -- Julie Dunn
Play tackles preschool politics
Curious Theatre Company director Chip Walton calls Bright Ideas "a dark comedy filled with twisted humor." Loosely based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, the play tells the story of parents Genevra and Joshua Bradley's struggle when their child is placed on the waiting list at the prestigious Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy. In a world of Texas cheerleader mothers and shouting sideline dads, Bright Ideas asks the burning question: "How far would you go to get your child into the best pre-school?" The satire chronicles the couple's resulting descent into murder and mayhem; before it's all over, poisoned pesto and a five-foot beaver manage to make their way into the plot. "Twisted humor in a good way," explains Walton.
Fresh off its hugely successful premiere in New York, the Curious production marks the regional debut of the play. Playwright Eric Coble, recipient of the distinguished AT&T Onstage grant, was commissioned to write Bright Ideas by the Cleveland Playhouse, where it premiered in 2002. He was recently featured on the cover of American Theatre magazine as one of seventeen playwrights bound for a breakout season.
Bright Ideas opens at 8 p.m. tonight at the Acoma Center, 1080 Acoma Street, and runs through February 21. Tickets are $20 to $24; call 303-623-0524 or visit www.curiousatacoma.com. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Local Filmmaker Eyes Tibet
John Sayles and his pretty-people cast may have brought some glamour to Denver while shooting Silver City, but there's a lot more happening in the local film scene than just features by cult directors.
Boulder producer/director/writer Roslyn Dauber's Tara's Daughters premieres tonight at 7 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter, in the Tivoli building on the Auraria campus. The documentary, narrated by Susan Sarandon, looks at Tibet's female refugees and their efforts to keep the nation's culture alive in the years since China invaded in 1959.
If you need a little levity after the film, head over to Dazzle, 930 Lincoln Street, for a post-screening party. Get movie tickets, $6 to $8, and information at 303-820-3456 or www.starzfilmcenter.com. -- Amy Haimerl
A Jewish-Muslim combo shares a funnybone
As Rabbi Bob Alper maintains, humor makes the world go round: "I've always used humor in all aspects of my career, including at funerals. It's an important part of my rabbinate." Yet Alper wasn't satisfied just breaking the ice with a few well-placed punchlines while officiating as a religious leader. In his spare time, he also became a bona fide stand-up comic. It was a publicist who suggested he increase his visibility in that field by teaming up with a Muslim comic. "Do you have any other ideas?" he asked her, but she persevered and eventually put him in touch with Ahmed Ahmed, an Egyptian living in Los Angeles. They clicked -- no, became friends ("We are comedy's odd couple," Alper quips. "The only thing we have in common is that we're both exceedingly good-looking") -- and their mutual act, One Arab, One Jew, Two Very Funny Guys, was born.
They make a fitting launch for the 2004 Bridges to the Future series co-sponsored by the University of Denver and Colorado State University. The duo performs both solo and together at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis streets; admission is free, but tickets are required. Call 303-871-2357 or log on to www.bridgestothefuture.us for details. -- Susan Froyd