August 1, 2013

Passion heats up repertory stage

Pendragon offers desire, doubt, dose of Mae West

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — “Doubt, A Parable,” “Dirty Blonde” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” revolve at the Pendragon Theatre at the moment.


The latter, Tennessee Williams’s 1948 Pulitzer-Prize winning play set in New Orleans, was the first production of Pendragon founders, who now live in Maine.

“It’s the first play Pendragon produced 33 years ago,” said Karen Lordi-Kirkham, who is play director and Pendragon artistic-executive director.

“We did it to honor Bob Pettee and Susan Neal. They are retired now. We’re doing a true version of it. For me the exciting thing is we have Beth Glover, an Equity actor, who has done a lot of work at the Depot (Theatre in Westport). She’s playing Blanche (Du Bois, the play’s protagonist).”

Josh Luteran, a New York City actor, stars as Stanley Kowalski, Blanche’s nemesis and brother-in-law, who uncovers her secret past.

The cast includes MacKenzie Barmen, Jordan Hornstein, Harrison Ewing, Chris McGovern, Jason Arnheim, Leslie Dame, Rachel Jerome, Sam Balzac and Peggy Ornheim.

“We have a strong ensemble cast,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “I also have a sound designer, Robert Pound, working on some music. Kent Streed, who really does our costumes, does the costuming for it as well.”

The show opened in late July, and the cast has received standing ovations.

“That’s a good sign,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “There’s been a lot of good buzz. We’d like to have more people come see it. It closes Aug. 15.”

This was her first time out with this play, but she’s directed Williams’s “Glass Menagerie.” What she loves about the playwright is his characters and his language.

“He’s so poetic in his work,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “If one of the actors doesn’t say it right, you know it’s not as good as he wrote it. He has strong, complex characters, and audience members don’t see where it’s going. Many people know it (“A Streetcar Named Desire”) from the movie. They were really blown away by the story.”

Stella’s oft-quoted line is: “I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

“That’s the one everyone knows,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “The play is also very funny. That’s one of the things about Tennessee Williams that I like. It’s a drama, but it’s sometimes very heavy, but there is a lot of humor. His characters are funny, and he has a lot of funny lines.”

The play was very reflective of its time.

“It was written in 1947. It seems like a long time ago. His characters are very much based in that post-World War II life. It transcends that time period. It’s about people, a culture, violence and people who are trying to find their way. It’s about sexuality, and that is timeless — the acceptance of it and the working out of it. Tennessee Williams, his female characters, are autobiographical and about his own struggle. The core themes are things we grapple with every day,” she said.


The curtain closes on the play on Aug. 15, but the repertory company beckons theatergoers with John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt, A Parable” and “Dirty Blonde,” a conception of Claudia Shear and James Lapin.

“‘Doubt’ is about a battle for truth between a nun and the parish priest,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “It was turned into a movie with Meryl Streep (Sister Aloysius Beauvier) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Father Brendan Flynn). It’s a real amazing play. People have also been raving (that) the actors are really wonderful.”

The cast includes Fran Yardley (Sister Aloysius Beauvier), Rachel Jerome (Mrs. Muller), MacKenzie Barmen (Sister James) and Tyler Nye (Father Brendan Flynn). Director is Kim Bouchard, a professor at SUNY Potsdam.


“Dirty Blonde” is inspired by the double-entendre dame Mae West. Jo, a much different kind of woman, comes into her own via West. Brandy Clark stars as Mae West and Jo. The supporting cast includes Matt Eick, Dylan Duffy and pianist Lynn Dewalt. Director is Laura Jean Schwartau.

“It’s great,” Lordi-Kirkham said. “It has all Mae West’s one-liners. A contemporary woman finds her place in the world through her exploration of Mae’s life. There’s flashback to Mae’s actual life, so she sings and there is music.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT & WHEN: ▶ "A Streetcar Named Desire": 8 p.m. Aug. 8, 9,13, 14 and 15. ▶ "Doubt, A Parable": 2 p.m. Aug. 25; 8 p.m. Aug. 23, 24 and 29. ▶ "Dirty Blonde": 2 p.m. Aug. 11; 8 p.m. Aug. 10, 17, 20, 21, 22, 30 and 31. WHERE: Pendragon Theatre,15 Brandy Brook Ave., Saranac Lake. ADMISSION: $12, $20 and $22. CONTACT: Call 891-1854 or visit