Review: The Glass Menagerie
The beauty of Tennessee Williams’ loosely autobiographical 1944 classic The Glass Menagerie lies both in the playwright’s powerful, poetic prose and in Williams’ understated portrayal of his relationship with his histrionic mother and mentally and emotionally delicate sister. The character Tom is Williams’ stand-in, narrating the play as well as portraying the frustrated-but-patient loving son and brother—and it’s Williams’ use of subtlety and delicacy in his narration and dialogue that makes this quiet tragedy so exquisitely powerful.
Sacramento Theatre Company’s current production of The Glass Menagerie makes a curious diversion in the typical portrayal of a more reticent Tom, with actor David Crane presenting an angry, explosively charged character who rants and rages throughout. Unfortunately, while Crane gives it his all, this portrayal undermines what makes The Glass Menagerie such a heart-tugging journey into Williams’ familial memory play. However, there are wonderful moments in this production. Most notable is actress Janis Stevens, who was born to play the part of the highly theatrical and emotional Amanda Wingfield—her dramatic flourishes and flouncing perfectly capture her character’s emotional roller-coaster from delicate Southern belle to distraught and desperate mother. And Katherine Stroller gives a heart-rending Laura, conveying the struggling sister’s awkwardness with sweet and painful stammering and facial expressions, while cradling her small glass figurines that become symbols of her fragile existence. And Eric Craig as the gentleman caller allows the audience to believe, for a brief moment at least, that salvation has come to this strange, struggling family.
STC also presents some creative production choices that work really well some of the time while being a distraction other times—such as synchronized set changes and providing some props while miming others.