Just like everything else, the literary world has its own language. Its own set of buzzwords. I find myself talking about how I “approached the work” or was “intrigued by the piece” or “engaged by the narrative” where before I might have said something boring and mundane like, “I read this book. I really enjoyed it. Let’s get some fro-yo.”
One of my current favorites is “entry point.” As in, “The sad clown really gave me an entry point to the narrative.” Or “I never found an entry point that allowed me to participate in the deeper meaning of the grilled cheese sandwich.” As far as I can tell, which, granted, isn’t all that far, entry point is the key to the kingdom, the secret handshake that draws the reader onto common ground with the writer. It is important, critical even, but the phrase makes me giggle (almost) every time I hear it.
So imagine my surprise when I was thinking about my trip to Yale this weekend to see A Streetcar Named Desire and the phrase popped into my head along with a snapshot of Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello. Alcide Herveaux on True Blood. Big Dick Richie in Magic Mike. Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Yep. You heard me right.
Joe Manganiello was my entry point into Yale Rep’s production of the Tennessee Williams classic. I wouldn’t have made the trek up I-95 to see just any old Stanley. Maybe not even Brando’s ghost. And I would have been worse off for not doing so.
Streetcar has always made me inordinately sad. I think it is because Blanche DuBois is not a stranger to me. Coming from the South, she’s all too familiar. I know and have known lots of people, men and women, who expend copious amounts of energy maintaining that perfect sheen on their otherwise imperfect lives. Often they, like Blanche, are broken and sad, but willing to put on genteel airs like a seersucker suit or a wide-brimmed straw hat. The sadness and insecurity are softened by a comforting drawl and a glass of cold sweet-tea. The darkest memories are packed away in the attic with the Green Stamps china and the dusty old Coca Cola bottles.
René Augesen is Blanche in New Haven. She wears Blanche as seemingly easily as the silky, red robe she slips into after another of Blanche’s long, hot baths. She is haunted and harried. Augesen, the actor, disappears into the New Orleans haze the instant Blanche says, “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire…” She is, in the overblown language of Playbill, a tour de force. A tour de force that I would never have seen if it hadn’t been for Big Dick Richie. (Seriously, Magic Mike, people.)
So, thanks, Joe Manganiello for being Stanley Kowalski. Thanks, René Augesen for being Blanche DuBois. And especially, thank you, Tennessee Williams for breaking my heart in that old, familiar way. Who knows? I might even make in down to the Booth Theater to see Mr. Spock in The Glass Menagerie.