Through October 12
THE GLASS MENAGERIE Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre/Shaw Festival
Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” is familiar, the autobiographical tale of frustrated brother, the handicapped sister, the lost-in-memories mother and “the gentleman caller.”
The play’s events shatter a barely functional family and leave the brother, Tom (André Sills), wandering the world as his father did, deliberately losing touch with his family.
“Menagerie” is a tale which starts depressed and gets worse.
This is a lost family barely holding together in the depths of the Depression.
No one knows what to do about the future, so mother Amanda (Allegra Fulton) constantly reaches back to her days as the belle of the ball in Jim Crow Mississippi, with all the racial attitudes that suggests.
Daughter Laura (Julia Course) is not only physically handicapped but seems more than a little mentally ill, with her obsession with her “glass menagerie,” the herd of glass animals she plays with constantly.
Tom wants something better in life and has been preparing to leave, without telling his mother, to the point he’s been paying dues to a seafaring union instead of paying the electric bill from the limited pay of the warehouse job he hates, although in this time he’s lucky to have a job.
Director László Bérczes worked with set designer Balázs Cziegler to install the deliberately cramped set in the stage pit of the Studio Theatre, showing the cramped nature of the family, trapped in a tiny apartment.
The situation blows up when Tom agrees to bring a friend from the warehouse over to meet Laura.
As we learn, he really doesn’t know much about Jim (Jonathan Tan), the co-worker and that’s the detonation of everything in Williams story.
The playwright had progressively worse personal problems in his life and “Menagerie” certainly gives you a few clues to what went wrong.
Jim may be the only person in the cast of four who has a plausibly good life ahead.
Bérczes is working with a strong and very diverse cast in this increasingly depressive play.
If you want to see what’s regarded as one of the great American plays, it’s worth seeing “The Glass Menagerie.”
If you’re looking for light entertainment, try “Brigadoon” or even “The Ladykillers.”
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