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The Glass Menagerie

a Comedy/Drama
by Tennessee WIlliams

COMPANY : Actors Theatre of Atlanta [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 5132

SHOWING : August 31, 2017 - October 01, 2017



Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility who lives in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother’s nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect, intensified by her mother’s anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself. The crux of the action comes when Tom invites a young man of his acquaintance to dinner.

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Played for Laughs
by playgoer
Monday, September 25, 2017
Tennessee Williams’ poetic memory play "The Glass Menagerie" isn’t usually considered fertile grounds for laugh-out-loud comedy. Don’t tell Emil Thomas that. He has directed "The Glass Menagerie" to point up all the funny bits and to add unexpected ones, particularly in having Laura react to situations with mugging reminiscent of an over-the-top sitcom.

The set at the New Theatre in the Square, designed by the single-named Carlos, contains a central low platform with a round table, four chairs, a typewriter, and a record player. It’s surrounded on three sides by higher platforms, the matching ones right and left with railings. Up center in an arch and on the near sides of the right and left platforms are partial shelves that contain votive candles and glass animals. The platforms are all in white. A stylized set of fire escape stairs in black appears at far stage left. It all looks very modern, with the men’s beards and Tom’s shaved head pointing directly at the modern day, while costumes give the feel that the time period is the 1980s. The script, of course, is very specific about its time period fifty years before that.

The script is also very specific about the ethnicity of Jim O’Connor, the gentleman caller, indicating that he is Irish on both sides and has (or had) freckles. Here, the role is played by a rail-thin black man, Esosa Idahosa. Like the actors playing Tom (Michael Vine) and Laura (Abigale Mitchell), he has been directed to play his role with overly precise diction and the type of projection that flattens out any emotion in the person’s voice. It’s a very strange effect.

Mr. Thomas’ blocking has characters lurking around the stage in odd ways, such as having Laura upstage polishing imaginary apples and picking up invisible grocery items when she has been sent off to the store, or flying her glass animals through the air and playing with them like a developmentally delayed child. All aspects of the production seem to be aimed at making Laura a buffoon. Her lurch with a turned-in foot is so marked that Jim’s assurances to her that her limp was hardly noticeable in high school seem risible. It does allow, though, for a nice touch with Laura placing that foot on top of Jim’s to dance more fluidly.

Lighting effects highlight different sections of the stage as the action moves, although not always in strictly coordinated fashion. The "dim light" mentioned in Tom’s initial speech predominates, with the candlelight of act one doubled in act two, to give Laura an extended sequence of blowing out candles before Tom gets to his line about Laura blowing out her candle.

The one shining triumph of this production is the performance of Lynn Grace as Amanda Wingfield. True, she gets lots of laughs in her performance, but they all derive from her character’s line readings, which are all utterly true to the character she has created. If the other actors had been directed to mesh more smoothly with the example she provides, this would be a much more successful production. As it is, the play comes through only through the power and poetry of Williams’ language and Ms. Grace’s performance. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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