A “Stella!” Rendition of STREETCAR

Mason Hill and Abigail Trabue
Mason Hill and Abigail Trabue

Playwright Darren Callahan interviewed Abigail Trabue and filed this report:

Her name is Abigail Trabue and she’s into torture.  “I thought long and hard,” she admits, “about how this would affect me.  Can I live in this world for fourteen weeks?  Can I put my child through that – my friends, my family?  But it’s Stella Kowalski, for God’s sake!”  

From a house in Lincoln Park, Chicago, where she leans against a bookshelf during a brief interview, Ms. Trabue radiates charm, sex appeal, and confidence in same measure.  It makes one wonder how this woman will transform into the self-effacing Stella – the demure wife of Stanley Kowalski, largely regarded as the quintessential Alpha Male of twentieth century drama. From the pen of Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire attained classic status long ago and remains popular today.

“It’s a fine line with Stella.  She’s not afraid of her husband, except in extreme moments.  She’s his equal in many ways, a balance for his impulses.  If it wasn’t for Stella, the whole damn show wouldn’t work.”

To take on this physically and emotionally demanding experience, it requires a cast of undeniable capabilities.  Stella, Stanley, and her sister Blanche Dubois form a dysfunctional triangle of human damage inhabiting steamy New Orleans.  The relationship between Stanley and Stella provide greater counterpoint for Blanche’s own eccentricities.  “I didn’t really think I was going to get the role, for a time.  But when they matched me up with Mason Hill (Stanley) and Laura Sturm (Blanche), we just clicked.”  

Ms. Trabue is a talent to watch – having impressed with leads in recent productions of The Rivals, Othello, and Hamlet, all for the renowned Polarity Ensemble Theatre, where Ms. Trabue is also a company member.  Polarity produces this latest take on A Streetcar Named Desire.  “I love working with Polarity,” she says.  “I really commit to what we’re doing here.”

The risk is worth it, as Ann Keen’s deft and original take on the classic play allows Ms. Trabue to mine deep veins of a rich female character.  It also allows her to reconnect with her southern roots.  Raised in Houma, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi she embraces the culture like a natural. 

On being asked if she’s seen other Stellas on film and stage, she replies, “This is my first time doing Williams, and I have purposefully avoiding seeing any films or revival footage, like stuff on YouTube.  I remember a bit of the work from a long time ago, but not enough to be influenced.” 

The most closely identified actor to portray Stella, Kim Hunter, went on to a long and storied career.  When asked if she plans to appear in any Planet of the Apes films as a follow up, further mimicking Ms. Hunter’s in her post-Streetcar years, Ms. Trabue only laughs.  “Maybe if it’s with Tim Roth and the makeup is really good.”     

The extended run of A Streetcar Named Desire ends this weekend at the Polarity Ensemble Theatre in the Josephinum Academy, 1500 N Bell, Chicago. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Click here for more information, or call our info line at 773-321-0009

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