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The Glass Menagerie

a Drama
by by Tennessee Williams

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4049

SHOWING : October 06, 2011 - October 30, 2011



A mother struggles to hold on to her family. A son struggles to let go. A daughter struggles to find her way in the world. Tennessee Williams’ memory play paints a heart-wrenching portrait of the Wingfield family, with each member trapped in a reality that they are desperate to – but cannot truly - escape.
by Tennessee Williams
directed by Richard Garner
October 6 - 30

A mother struggles to hold on to her family. A son struggles to let go. A daughter struggles to find her way in the world. Tennessee Williams’ memory play paints a heart-wrenching portrait of the Wingfield family, with each member trapped in a reality that they are desperate to – but cannot truly - escape.

Laura Wingfield Bethany Anne Lind
Amanda Wingfield Mary Lynn Owen
Jim Travis Smith
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by Dedalus
Friday, October 28, 2011
Memory has a way of smothering us in its comfort-blanket embrace of rose-colored assurances even as it deceives us with its lost details, its manufactured incidents, and its pleasing fallacies. They say there is no consciousness without memory, no memory of early years before consciousness. What does it say about us when the core of who we are may be (and usually is) a blatant lie?

“The Glass Menagerie” is arguably Tennessee Williams’ most well-known “Memory Play.” In it, he attempts an exorcism of his own memories of, his mother, his sister, and his youth in St. Louis. Tom Wingfield is telling us his memory of his final days living in that tenement that may or may not resemble Williams’ own. His memory is filtered, biased, and selective as he tells us of his overly eccentric mother Amanda and his crippled and shy sister Laura, of the “Gentleman Caller” who was supposed to pull Laura out of her fragile solitude, of the circumstances that shattered forever the memory of hearth and home and family.

Like all memories, Tom’s ebbs and flows with detail, sometimes fuzzy and unfocused, other times sharp and clear. It is through Williams’ genius that these ebbs and flows transfer into a workable dramatic framework, that what we see is inalterably “infected” with Tom’s feelings – his mother a bit too jagged, his sister a bit too fragile. And we accept the conventions, because, at their root, are the very real emotions Tom will always carry. His story conveys all too realistically the emotional upheavals and consequences of the choices he made and regrets.

Our first contact with the Wingfield family in Georgia Shakespeare’s exquisite and sublime production is the Wingfield home, sketchier than realism would demand, larger than accuracy would require. We see a large shattered mirror dominating everything. We are not only going through the looking glass of memory, we are going through one shattered and in pieces. It’s an effective image, and it dominates everything we see. Images occasionally move across the mirrored shards, abstract shapes that reflect a stray thought or feeling, vague images that reflect a stray memory intruding on the story. The design has a surreal (in the sense of “super-real”) air of the inside of a mind, the memories and feelings that combine in a jumble of complex emotions that can’t help but affect the narrative that is being sorted, created into an acceptable (in the sense of “I can live with it”) memory.

Joe Knezevich starts us off with a slow and deliberate Tom. It’s as if he were carefully weighing every word, testing each phrase against the ever-shifting reality of his memory, not releasing it to us until it is just right. It’s an approach that is at first, off-putting, but eventually pays off as we see that control gradually break down, gradually reveal to us the swirls of emotion his story may be designed to hide.

The figures of his memory, the Amanda of Mary Lynn Owen, the Laura of Bethany Anne Lind, the Gentleman Caller of Travis Smith, bring very different readings to these characters I thought I knew. Ms. Owen gives us the expected Amanda, blinded by the idealization of her own lost girlhood, stubbornly immune to the harsh realities of her situation and her family. Yet, she is often subdued, often giddy and silly, passive-aggressive in her domination of her children rather than merely tyrannical.

Ms. Lind is remarkable, a fragile creature not merely shy, but pathologically withdrawn – when she learns the identity of the Gentleman Caller, she wheezes and sobs as though an asthma attack will spare her what she knows must come. This is (at last) a Laura that is close in spirit to her source, Williams’ institutionalized sister – this is a young woman who desperately needs real help, not pseudo-get-over-it platitudes that will be her lot in this household.

And, Mr. Smith gives us a Jim who is pleasant and approachable, who doesn’t wear his self-created confidence like an arrogant club, who sees Laura for what she us, likes her for it, and regrets being put into a situation where he will make her retreat further into a self-shattering glass shell. This is by far the best Jim/Laura sequence I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen more “Menageries” than you can shake a unicorn at), and is alternately sweet, hopeful, and gut-wrenchingly traumatic. This scene (necessarily totally imagined by Tom) that completes this play, ties it up into an emotional bolt and shoots it straight into our guts.

Richard Garner has directed his cast and design crew with a sure hand and a clear concept that does full justice to Williams’ delicate play. I loved how the look and sound underscored and emphasized the complex clarity of the emotional core, yet retained the vagueness – and clarity – of differing memories. I loved how the cast inhabited these characters and made them real. Even if they are only constructs of Tom’s memory, of Williams’ memory, they nevertheless live and breathe and tell us their own tale, their own role in the memory of the storyteller(s).

“The Glass Menagerie” has always been a delicate figurine of a play, easily shattered by over-the-top acting or heavy-handed direction. In the hands of Georgia Shakespeare, it is an outstanding exercise in theater, a candle-lit reverie that justifies all the support this company needs and is (apparently) receiving.

When Tom implores Laura to blow out her candle, to darken her memory forever, it is a sublime moment, a moment that reassures us that no matter how many tricks memory has up its sleeve, no matter how often it lies and deceives, it is always as true as it needs to be.

It would be satisfying to wish Mr. Williams a gentle “Blow out your candle, Tennessee.” Since he has already passed into our own memories, all we know of him is what he has shared. And I will be forever glad that he chose to share this particular moment, this particular shard of shattered memory.

-- Brad Rudy (

by playgoer
Monday, October 17, 2011
If Georgia Shakespeare had not been able to raise money by the end of September, the company would have gone under. If that were the case, Atlanta would have been deprived of a wondrous production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie."

The set, designed by Kat conley, is a bit overbearing upon first viewing. Its background is a huge art deco pseudo-glass fan in black and white and grays arrayed above and around the playing area, with irregularly shaped trapezoids of gray spilling down the steps surrounding the stage. The set it encloses is slightly raked, on two levels (living room and fire escape "terrace" downstage; dining room upstage). All the furniture is painted gray. The colorlessness extends throughout the first act, with just a few touches of color entering the scene for the arrival of the gentleman caller. This is a modest St. Louis apartment, enclosing the Wingfield family. The only way out is via the fire escape, down into the depths of the understage area.

Kendall Simpson's music, Clay Benning's sound design, Mike Post's lighting design, and Sydney Roberts' costume design all add to the quality of the production. Music wafts in from the dance hall across the alley, projections play across the glass fan, and the dresses worn by Amanda and Laura for the gentleman caller's scene are both inappropriate (in taste) and totally appropriate (for character).

The acting across the board is superb. Joe Knezevich's Tom Wingfield has power and frustration in equal measures. Bethany Anne Lind's voice has some of the qualities of Sandy Dennis', but she makes the role of Laura Wingfield her own. There's a sense that there's an optimistic, sweet girl dwelling inside her shyly brittle exterior. She appears plain and pretty in equal measures. Mary Lynn Owen's Amanda Wingfield is flitty and steely in equal measures. The range they each show blends into a powerful depiction of a dysfunctional family.

Travis Smith's Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, is not written as a deeply complex character. He is a breath of the well-adjusted outside world blowing through the apartment like the cool summer breeze following a rainstorm. And he is magnificent. His chemistry with Bethany Anne Lind is palpable, and the reserve he displays after taking a step too far with her makes the audience feel his hurt as well as Laura's.

Richard Garner's direction brings the whole production together. There are wonderful moments when a mother-son argument takes over the stage in projected video and when mother Amanda holds a glass animal tenderly in her hand before resolutely placing it back on Laura's little table, the only spot where dreams can survive in this dingy apartment. The blocking moves action along in steady fashion. The opening scene, with Amanda lecturing an invisible Tom at the dinner table, seamlessly moves Tom into action from his narrator duties. The flow is subtle and satisfying. Georgia Shakespeare's "The Glass Menagerie" has many such memorable moments, all coming together to create a spellbinding production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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