The Glass Menagerie

Rated 3.0

The Glass Menagerie is all about delicacy—the delicacy of Tennessee Williams’ writing, of his fragile characters and of heartbreaking conditions of the human spirit. And then there’s the delicacy of small glass animals that become the center of a troubled woman’s life.Actor’s Theatre, one of the few local theaters spotlighting great playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen, Samuel Beckett and Anton Chekhov, now turns to Williams for its latest production. The Glass Menagerie was Williams’ first theatrical success, a semi-autobiographical play that is one of his most touching and tragic. It introduces Williams’ trademarks: the Southern steel magnolia, the wilting hothouse belle, emotional breakdowns, sexual confusion and the first-person narrator.

Because this story of family tragedy reflects Williams’ own life, the play is especially emotionally haunting. Tom, the narrator, comes out and sets the tone. He explains that we’ll be seeing a “memory play” that relies on reflection rather than realism. Then Tom turns and enters the scene, where he introduces us to his high-strung, strong-willed mother, Amanda (Cindi Speakman); and emotionally shattered sister, Laura (Alexandra Ralph).

Tom (Anthony Sava) is looking for a way out of his warehouse job. He wants to write, but he is financially responsible for his abandoned mother and mentally ill sister. He’s a prisoner of major guilt, expertly fed by his domineering mother—the unforgettable force named Amanda who lives in a hazy world of faded beauties and gentleman callers.

This production by the Actor’s Theatre lets us bask in Williams’ sharp, delicate dialogue. Co-directors Ed Claudio and Katie Partington wisely keep things simple, from the sets to the staging. They’ve brought together a cast that clearly loves the play and each of the characters. There are some bumps along the way—slow pacing and some disconnect between the characters—but you’ll leave this production clearly under the spell of the tenuous world of Tennessee Williams.