BWW Review: The Glass Menagerie at the Vagabond
Perfect casting makes for a beautiful rendition of The Glass Menagerie at the Vagabond. In this Tennessee Williams' classic, a fractured family struggles to maintain the illusion of hope in a harsh reality. Michael Byrne Zemarel's sensitive direction extracts the timeless elements from the mid-century setting.
Tom Wingfield (Don Kammann), narrator and protagonist, informs the audience that the story is his memory of life with his mother Amanda (Lynda McClary) and sister, Laura (Anna Steuerman), as they try to make ends meet in a dilapidated St. Louis apartment in 1930's America. They all seek to escape. Tom runs to the movies and dreams of running away. Amanda retreats to her past as a Southern debutante. Laura seeks safety in the haven of her glass menagerie which is as fragile and otherworldly as her character.
Kammann gives a nuanced performance as Tom, who dreams of being a revolutionary but finds himself mostly just reacting to a stifling mother and a dreary job, helpless to make things better for his beloved sister or for himself. Steuerman is heartfelt and heartbreaking as the physically challenged and emotionally frail Laura. The audience feels the pain of her shyness, but the actress manages to imbue the character with a delicate strength. Amanda hovers over her two children and obsesses over their uncertain future in an uncertain world. McClary delivers the character with all her pathos and glory--at times loving,meddlesome,exasperating and eccentric. She is part of Williams' pantheon of histrionic females,who are all the more fascinating for their flaws. Though she practices denial in the case of her "long distance husband," she is in touch with the fact that times are hard and one best toughen up to deal with the facts of life.
With that in mind, Amanda determines that what Laura needs and Tom should find for her is a gentleman caller. And as she had at least seventeen, Amanda feels this is her area of expertise. Enter Jim O'Connor (Flynn Harne), Tom's co-worker and the secret object of Laura's teenage affection. O'Connor peaked in high school and can't quite figure out what happened after it all went downhill into adulthood. Harne brings an energy and amiability that deftly contrasts with the melancholy Wingfields. The romantic chemistry he unexpectedly discovers with Laura is both sweet and tragic.
In modern times, this story might be set in the heartland that is the center of the country's current misery. The Wingfields would be the present-day version of the same stressed out broken family with variations of the same dilemmas like divorce, unemployment, drug addiction, dissociative disorder and lack of opportunity or social support. Aptly named, they are neither grounded in reality or able to fly away from it. This poignant production captures Williams words: The future becomes the present, the present the past...and the past, the future.
The Glass Menagerie plays now through October 1, 2017 at the Vagabond Theatre, located at 806 S. Broadway. For more information go to vagabondplayers.org
From This Author Tina Collins
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