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Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE Opens The Arden Theatre Company's 35th Anniversary Season

Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE Opens The Arden Theatre Company's 35th Anniversary Season

The Glass Menagerie runs at The Arden Theatre's F. Otto Haas Stage through November 6.

The Arden Theatre Company's 35th Anniversary season opened last night with a return to the work of the playwright who helped usher the company back to the bright lights of the stage after a two-year pandemic darkness: Tennessee Williams. Last season brought us the sizzling A Streetcar Named Desire. This season's opener has come in the form of Williams' heart-wrenching memory play, The Glass Menagerie, and is marking the Arden's first post-pandemic return to a full five-show season.

Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE Opens The Arden Theatre Company's 35th Anniversary Season The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams' most autobiographical work, and the play's protagonist, Tom, brings the audience into the story with the promise of "truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." The play takes place in the grim St. Louis apartment of the Wingfield family, comprised of faded Southern belle matriarch Amanda Wingfield [Krista Apple], her dreamy and frustrated son, Tom [Sean Lally], and her fragile daughter, Laura [Hannah Brannau]. Amanda's once bright star has now fizzled into a combusting, desperate energy, solely directed into the success of her children, most fervently in the form of finding a suitor for her daughter. Tom, in the absence of his father and under the pressure of his mother, has become the reluctant head of the household, shackled to his unsatisfied and claustrophobic existence, and secretly planning a way out. Laura, whose childhood bout with pleurisy has caused her to walk with a limp, has become so anxious and shy she can barely leave the house or speak to anyone outside of her family. She spends most of her time among her collection of glass animals. When Tom brings home a friend from work, Jim O'Connor [Frank Jimenez], as a "gentleman caller" for Laura, he brings with it the only hope that these characters have to hang on to.

The actors in this production work well together in emotional, affective performances. Sean Lally is a moving Tom, and Krista Apple's Amanda is nuanced, the character's gravitas and sense of desperation tangible. A special nod should be given to dialect consultant Matthew Hultgren here, as Apple's deep southern drawl-which never faltered for an instant- felt especially true to character. Hannah Brannau's Laura is wonderful, the character's motivations, inner strength, and ultimate acceptance of her circumstances coming through in beautifully clear and heartbreaking fashion. And Frank Jimenez as Jim O'Connor has a fantastic, easy chemistry with Brannau's Laura.

While the production seemed to lack a little bit of clear motivation in some of its choicesReview: THE GLASS MENAGERIE Opens The Arden Theatre Company's 35th Anniversary Season (the lighting and set design, along with the blocking, was true to the page, but never quite achieved the moody haziness it might have in order to best play into the use of memory in its storytelling), it still left a sizable emotional handprint.

The Arden Theatre Company's The Glass Menagerie, directed by Terrence J. Nolen, is a powerful opening to the season, and ultimately leaves with you with the satisfying gut-punch the material calls for.


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