Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Oyster Mill Playhouse

A haunting memory play at Oyster Mill Playhouse through September 25th

By: Sep. 08, 2022
Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE at Oyster Mill Playhouse
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The Glass Menagerie, based on the 1943 short story "Portrait of a Girl in Glass", premiered in 1944 in Chicago where it caught the attention of critics Ashton Stevens and Claudia Cassidy. With their help, the producers were able to move Tennessee Williams's play to Broadway, where it opened at the Playhouse Theatre in 1945. The Glass Menagerie is a memory play in which the role of Tom serves as both narrator and character, as the audience is introduced to his mother, Amanda; his sister, Laura; his friend, Jim; and his deceased father. Oyster Mill Playhouse brings the beautiful and haunting play The Glass Menagerie to life September 9th-September 25th.

Director Michael Hosler and the production team deserve a standing ovation for their set, sound, and lighting design. The preshow music, which includes haunting and reflective instrumentals, sets the scene perfectly. The lighting is specifically designed to play with light and shadow in a way that highlights the interplay between reality, illusion, and memory. The sparse set is reminiscent of a shadow box in which one keeps precious mementos, dominated by a photo of the physically absent, yet ever-present Mr. Wingfield. Every element of the production is carefully crafted to invite the audience into the memories of Tom Wingfield.

As the show opens, Graham Woods takes the stage as Tom Wingfield, introducing the audience to the time and place, as well as the characters. Woods draws the audience in with his expressive eyes and measured, poetic monologue delivery. As the story progresses, Woods gives a nuanced and lovely performance in which the audience can feel Tom's exasperation toward his mother, his deep love and acceptance of his sister, and his longing for something more in life. His portrayal of the dreamer-writer who feels imprisoned by his warehouse job, his overbearing mother, his painfully shy sister, and the memory of his absentee father brings Tom to life in a genuine and relatable way. In fact, all of the actors in the cast bring a sense of authenticity and realism to their characters, allowing the audience to see aspects of themselves and those they know in this memory play.

Amanda Wingfield and Laura Wingfield, played by Anne Marino and Megan Thomas, respectively, could not be more different. Amanda is a vivacious and proud woman who loves to be the center of attention. Laura is a shy, meek, fragile young lady. Interestingly, the audience discovers that Amanda and Laura are both prisoners of the past-Amanda is stuck in a past that was filled (according to her recollection) with gaiety, romance, and southern elegance, while Laura is stuck in a past dominated by feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness brought about by how she viewed her disability.

Anne Marino is stellar in her role as Amanda. Her incredible stage presence and ability to use movement and expression to convey emotion portray Amanda as a larger-than-life presence in her children's lives. While audiences may not agree with the character's tactics, Amanda's desperation to secure a bright future for her children is so palpable through Marino's performance that those watching cannot help but sympathize with her. Woods and Marino are a dynamic pair as they navigate the complicated interactions between Tom and his mother, Amanda.

Laura Wingfield is not an easy character to play. Not only does she have to maintain a slight limp throughout the performance, but the actress playing Laura also must find a way to portray the shy, quiet girl in such a way that she doesn't disappear in the light of Amanda's big personality and Tom's moodiness. Megan Thomas walks this line beautifully, capturing the essence of Laura's anxiety, shyness, and fragility, while fully exploring the things that make the character multi-dimensional-her passion for fragile things like her glass collection, her keen knack for observation, and her love for her family.

Matthew Golden completes the cast of The Glass Menagerie as he takes on the role of Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller. Golden is exceptionally believable as the confident, ambitious Jim. Jim was the golden boy in high school-good at everything and liked by everyone, including Laura. Golden's Jim is gregarious and charming with an easy smile. The scene between Laura and Jim is mesmerizing, as the audience sees Laura begin to come out of her shell, even if only for a few moments before their heart wrenching goodbye.

The Glass Menagerie is a complex play filled with deep emotion, multi-faceted characters, and intricate relationships. It takes a strong and talented cast and production team to bring this play to life for modern audiences. Oyster Mill's production of The Glass Menagerie is a beautiful example of a well-thought-out and carefully crafted piece of live theatre that is brilliantly staged and acted.

Don't miss out on The Glass Menagerie at Oyster Mill Playhouse. For ticket information, visit www.oystermill.com

Photo Credit: Nicole Dube




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