Woman in power


POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

“;It's been a challenge but it's been rewarding,”; said Gillian Blakkan-Strauss, assessing the experience of playing a woman very unlike herself onstage. Blakkan-Strauss makes her Hawaii stage debut tonight as Ruth in the Kennedy Theatre Main Stage production of “;The Homecoming.”;

Ruth is the only woman in Harold Pinter's classic tale of sex and violence in a dysfunctional family, and she operates in ways that Blakkan-Strauss initially found hard to relate to.

“;The hard part for me has been really using sexuality in various ways to seduce people, to manipulate people,”; she said. “;Ruth does it to an extent that it's so overt and just so obvious that there's no denying it, (but) when I got past my point of being uncomfortable and started to enjoy it, then I could really start exploring her different methods.”;





        » Where: Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa

» When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 21; also 2 p.m. Nov. 22


» Cost: $20 general admission; $18 for UH faculty/staff, seniors and military; $12 for students; $5 for UHM students


» Call: 944-2697 or www.etickethawaii.com




Ruth makes herself the catalyst of an increasingly bitter conflict between her husband and his brothers, father and uncle after the couple returns from abroad and moves into the family home. UHM stage veteran Ryan Wuestewald plays Ruth's husband, Teddy, with Bronzen Hahn, recently seen as the anonymous ruffian in Ernst Lab Theatre's production of “;The Nocturnal Wanderer,”; playing one of his brothers. Glenn Cannon directs.

Blakkan-Strauss, a native New Yorker, comes to Hawaii from the Michigan State University theater program. She joined several of her friends in reading for the part and got the role.

Taken at face value, Blakkan-Strauss said Ruth can easily be seen as “;an impulsive harlot.”; But look deeper, and “;you discover a woman who not only knows what she wants in life, but understands how to use her sexuality, her intelligence and charm to get it.”;

“;I think you discover a woman who has been living a life that is not fulfilling, who is unhappy, (and) she finds other means of achieving that happiness,”; she said.

Understanding the character from the inside was essential. Does another person share the blame for Ruth's actions?

Blakkan-Strauss said yes. Others might disagree.

“;Something I like about Pinter's writing is that everybody, I think, is going to walk away with a different opinion of why Ruth does what she does, why all the characters in the play do what they do.

“;It's a very valid interpretation to say that she just wants to exercise her power and manipulate men—I don't see it like that.”;