It’s been ages since The Glass Menagerie
has graced a Sacramento stage. It’s widely regarded as Tennessee Williams’ best script, but theater companies, here and elsewhere, tend to favor new works over classics. As a result, there are a lot of people ages 45 and under who are aware that The Glass Menagerie
is a “great American play” but have never actually seen it.If you fall into that category, the handsome community production at the Chautauqua Playhouse will serve as a good introduction to this wonderful memory play. The casting is solid: Dianne C. Bartlett is the chatty, financially struggling Southern mom who’s worried that her exceedingly shy daughter is becoming an old maid. Erin Jones is the wallflower daughter. David Leisk is the moody son stuck in a meaningless warehouse job, who desperately wants to escape and become a writer. Dan Featherson rounds out the cast as the handsome “gentleman caller” brought in as the daughter’s long-shot marriage prospect.
Director Warren Harrison hits a good balance between the play’s humor—there’s quite a lot of irony—and the melancholy understanding that this over-strained family is about to disintegrate. Kim Negrete’s lighting design is appropriately dim and gloomy, as per the playwright’s instructions.
I saw the show with a Sunday-matinee audience that was top-heavy with retirees—folks who had lived through the 1940s (when the play is set). Most of them were familiar with the play, and several hummed along with the 1940s pop tunes in the sound design. They knew what was coming but very much enjoyed the ride, because it’s such an honest, remarkable script. Chances are that you’ll enjoy it, too.