Opening night of 'A Streetcar Named Desire' got the audience a little too involved in the action.
The term 'showstopper' was never more clearly understood than it was Friday night, when Artists Repertory Theatre opened its production of the Tennessee Williams classic 'A Streetcar Named Desire.'
By night's end, a near-capacity crowd was on its feet with boisterous approval of director Jon Kretzu's interpretation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 drama about disintegrating fortunes and wayward passions in the Old South.
But the enthusiasm was also spiked with a lingering buzz over a stunning onstage accident that momentarily derailed the show in the second act.
In a scene in which the brutish working man Stanley Kowalski loses his temper while dining with his wife Stella and sister-in-law Blanche DuBois, actor Mic Matarrese, who plays Kowalski, angrily hurled a dinner plate toward a wide entryway surrounded by audience members.
But Matarrese missed his target by several feet, and the plate struck a theatergoer sharply in the head. Fortunately, the plate was made of plastic. Less auspiciously, the victim was Portlander Floyd Sklaver, a columnist for the monthly Just Out magazine.
After a collective gasp from the audience, the theater fell silent. Matarrese broke character to ask Sklaver once, and then again, if he was all right. Sklaver replied, loud enough for all to hear, with a more colorful version of 'stuff happens.'
As actresses Val Landrum and Andrea Frankle maintained poses of fearful concern on stage, Matarrese apologized.
He then turned back to the stage and said 'the next line goes like this…' and smoothly picked up where he had left off.
The production went on without further mishaps, although a short time later, Sklaver and partner Marc Acito, the local writer and performer, stood and quietly made their way out of the theater
'It's just one of those rare, rare things that happens,' said Allen Nause, artistic director at ART.
By the next morning, Sklaver could laugh, although he was sporting a knot above his right ear.
He'd left the night before, he said, because he'd begun to get a headache, but also because the incident had proved too much of a distraction.
'Whenever Stanley starting getting worked up, we couldn't help snickering,' he said.
Nause said a special rehearsal was arranged for the cast on Saturday and that the scene would be reviewed, although he did not anticipate any changes.
ART publicist Deborah Elliott said the plate had simply slipped from Matarrese's hand as he threw it.
'We want to engage audiences in our productions,' she said, 'but not to that extent.'