After the opening night of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Orcas Center last night, it suddenly occurred to me why my character, Pablo Gonzales, hangs out with the likes of Stanley Kowalski.
It has been established (in my imagination) that Pablo’s father, the village drunk, was struck and killed by a streetcar named Napoleon when Pablo was only 15. This affected him in several ways. Pablo never consumed alcohol as an adult, an escape sought after by most of the people that surrounded him in New Orleans. He also immediately felt a repugnant fear of the Napoleon line, the very streetcar that killed his father and would never ride it. However, from the age of 15, he had been missing a father-figure in his life. Although roughly the same age, Stanley became this authority-figure for Pablo; the emotional and physical abuse with which Stanley treated his wife, Stella, strongly resembled the Gonzales machismo to his subconscious. Thus, Pablo had never been stirred to consciously rationalize Stanley’s brutish and beastial behavior.
This changes, however, when Pablo has to deal with the emotions that surface when he discovers that Stanley raped Stella’s sister, Blanche Dubois, and has arranged to have her committed to an asylum. Although Pablo knew very little about Blanche, he saw not a woman dangerous to herself or anyone else, but a vulnerable woman whose rumored (yet true) antics were merely a cry for help. The physical and emotional abuse she suffered from Stanley placed her on a precipice from which she had no recourse but to fall when he raped her. In so doing Stanley crossed a line with Pablo. We see this contemplation in Pablo in the way he glares at Stanley at that end of the play. It is a sign that the status quo of this poker group is about to change.
With this is born an idea that I shall cultivate during the run of the Orcas Center production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Why not write a 10-minute play for the 2019 Playfest at the Grange on Orcas Island? Why not, indeed! And so I offer A Streetcar Named Napoleon. You know the backstory, so let’s introduce you to the plot.
After the final scene of Streetcar, Pablo has to address some emotions that have come to the surface. Stanley has gone too far and has become repugnant and so the play begins with Pablo’s emotional quandary and deciding to quit the poker group. But, that is not enough for him because the frequent sight of Stanley at the plant disgusts him. After talking with his wife, Maria, he decides to follow his dream of opening a Cuban restaurant by taking over an establishment previously owned by his cousin. His hero’s journey involves both letting go of the repugnant Stanley and his fear of riding the Napoleon; for without a driver’s license and his own transportation, he is forced to take the Napoleon in order to get to his restaurant.