BWW Reviews: THE GLASS MENAGERIE Captivates Audiences
From the first word spoken by the narrator/ lead character Tom Wingfield as he leaned against the outside of the proscenium stage left with cigarette in hand, I was hooked. Played by Michael Tallon in Montevallo Main Street Players' production of Tennessee Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE, his voice drew you into the story immediately.
The set was filled with antiques that while elegant, also filled the bill of a shabby apartment occupied by delusional, abandoned mother Amanda Wingfield, played by Dianna Murphree. Also living there were her emotionally and physically handicapped daughter Laura, played by Giselle Casadaban and Amanda's son Tom. The set was well done and although I tend to be a stickler for details, I felt the wavy line of the chair rail and the crooked pictures on the wall helped to portray the dream like quality of a memory play. The yellowed, streaked walls are the sorts of details that help the audience realize immediately that although Amanda tries to live a gracious life, her reality is anything but.
I have to give kudos to director Leah Kirk for doing a fine job, not only in casting, but in keeping the play well paced and emotional. Tallon, whose career I have followed for several years, gives one of his best performances. Left by his father at an early age, you could feel the internal struggle Tom lived with. On the one hand he felt an obligation to care for his mother and sister, who were clearly incapable of doing so themselves, and yet he knew he would never be happy or successful until he got away from them. Tallon played Tom with restraint and yet you felt the emotions bubbling under the surface at all times.
Ms. Murphree was a wonderful Amanda, delusional and out of touch with what is happening to her children as she blindly lives a life that is stuck in the past. When she let down her guard you caught glimpses of the hardened woman she did not want to show to the world, but lives inside of her nonetheless. In her arguments with Tom she seemed more agitated than did the calm Tallon as he fended her off with smooth charm, even when you knew he was seething inside.
Ms. Casadaban was fidgety and painfully shy as Laura and you couldn't help but feel her pain as Amanda demanded more from her than she could give. When the gentleman caller Jim O'Connor, played by Dallas Nolen, shows up in the second part of the play, Laura's discomfort multiplies. There are some nice moments between Laura and Jim, but when he ultimately breaks her heart and leaves, I got the feeling from Nolen that he was almost glad to do it. I was concerned when I read that Nolen was still in high school, but he did a nice job of playing older and I accepted that he is a class mate of Laura's and a coworker of Tom's. His polished voice and enthusiasm fit the role perfectly.
As the last narration played out, I realized how quickly the time had passed, how invested I was in the lives of these characters, and how much like poetry that last narration sounded. I didn't want it to end. As an added treat after this performance, Dr. Ralph Voss, winner of the 2014 Tennessee Williams Distinguished Scholar Medallion, spoke to us on the history of the play and the life of the playwright, Tennessee Williams. Although a small theatre in a small town and somewhat inconsistent in the quality of productions, The Montevallo Main Street Players is definitely capable of putting on top notch productions when everyone is on their game, as they were yesterday.