BWW Review: Sumptuous Feast for All Senses with Williams Project GLASS MENAGERIE

The Glass Menagerie
Nancy Moricette and Grant Chapman in
The Glass Menagerie at Cafe Nordo
Photo credit: Jeff Carpenter

Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" is a tough piece to pull off with all its emotion and meaning in tact but luckily new to town company The Williams Project is more than up to the task. Add into that some down home cookin' from the folks at Café Nordo and you've got yourself an evening to satisfy all your senses.

Williams' memory play focuses on the Wingfield family, Amanda Wingfield (Nancy Moricette) and her son Tom (Grant Chapman) and daughter Laura (Elise LeBreton). They live a meager existence with Tom working away at a warehouse during the day and out drinking all night and Amanda selling magazine subscriptions over the phone but they get by. But more than money Amanda's concern is for her daughter who lacks any self-confidence largely due to the fact that her leg is crippled. Things go from bad to worse when Amanda finds that Laura has quit her secretarial classes long ago due to a breakdown she had in class. So Amanda feels the only way to help her will be to find a gentleman caller who will come and marry her and so she enlists Tom to bring a friend home to dinner for the shy girl.

The play is filled with flawed people making bad choices but all with the right intentions, which makes us want to see them succeed. Director Ryan Purcell has taken this tragic tale and not only infused it with some incredible actors and a delicious meal (we're all at the dinner party) but also insinuated modern dress, music and props. Normally that irritates me but really helped ground the play here into a modern sensibility and fit in with the color blind and somewhat non-traditional casting (Moricette is way too young to be their mother). But what Purcell has done beautifully is explore Williams' idea that the greatest distance you can have between two people is time with Amanda being stuck in the past with her glory days of 17 gentleman callers, Laura living entirely in moments of the present, and Tom striving for any kind of future beyond where he is now.

The Glass Menagerie
Elise LeBreton and Leicester Landon in
The Glass Menagerie at Cafe Nordo
Photo credit: Jeff Carpenter

The cast, as I said, is a superb culling from previous Williams Project showS. Chapman carries the through line and narration of the piece wonderfully showing off the dichotomy of Williams' somewhat autobiographical piece as he channels Williams in his narrator role but then completely changes when around others as Tom. I wasn't sure about LeBreton's confidence or rather lack-of a lack of confidence at the top of the show but as the show progressed you could see the awkwardness of the girl grow especially when confronted with anyone not in her immediate family. And her "date" with the gentleman caller, Jim played by Leicester Landon, was equal parts sweet and hopeful mixed with tragic and sad largely due to the couple's chemistry and commitment to their complex characters. But once again (as with another Williams Project show) the person who truly bowled me over was Moricette as the aging former socialite Amanda. I said that she was too young for the role but those feelings lasted about five seconds into Moricette's stirring and powerful performance. Not only could you practically feel the power and confidence in her character but you could also see every chink in Amanda's armor making her fascinating to watch.

This show just proves what I already suspected, that this is a company to be reckoned with filled with very talented individuals and is a welcome addition to Seattle's theater scene. And so with my three letter rating system I give The Williams Project's "The Glass Menagerie" a heartfelt YAY. One great show from a company ("Orpheus Descending") could be a fluke. A second great show ("Blues for Mister Charlie") could be called a streak. But now this third great show is just proof of a quality company that I can't wait to see what they offer us next.

"The Glass Menagerie" from The Williams Project performs at Café Nordo through September 3rd. For tickets or information visit them online at www.thewilliamsproject.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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