Mary Arrchie Theatre presents THE GLASS MENAGERIE. A homeless man contemplates his past. Tom Wingfield narrates this memory play about his childhood. He remembers his overbearing mother, his fragile sister, his absent father and the gentleman caller. A faded southern belle, his mom constantly berated her children...even as adults. Her grandiose memories of her own self-proclaimed popularity makes Amanda push her introverted children to flourish. Her tactics have the opposite results. Tom retreats into his writing and his drinking. Laura escapes into her pretend world of glass figurines. When an amicable visitor comes to dinner, the Wingfields draw him into their individual delusional worlds. Mary Arrchie’s THE GLASS MENAGERIE crystallizes with bittersweet shimmer.
Playwright Tennessee Williams premiered this play in Chicago in 1944. It was considered his first successful play and possibly semi-autobiographical. I saw a recent traditional version of this play that I really enjoyed. And after seeing Director Hans Fleischmann’s interpretation of this play, I may be spoiled to future productions. I loved this show for its imaginative approach. Scenic Designer Grant Sabin litters the stage with various glass vessels. Sabin creates a back alley look and then lines it with glassware. When Lighting Designer Matthew Gawryk flips the switch at pivotal times, the stage glistens. Within Tom’s gritty reality is this beautiful flicker into his dark past. The imagery is magical.
A filthy and barefoot Fleischmann also performs in the role of Tom. As the director and narrator, Fleischmann layers this tale with depth and symbolism. It’s powerfully surreal as a crumpled newspaper in the present becomes reading literature in the past. For most of Act I, Fleischman doesn’t interact with his family. The traditional conversation scenes turn soliloquy. Maggie Cain (Amanda) and Joanne Dubach (Laura) deliver their lines facing the audience. Seeing their ongoing facial reactions makes the audience see THE GLASS MENAGERIE through Tom’s eyes. Transfixing! As Fleischmann’s memories become more vivid, he physically melds into the household routine and interaction. The monologue style shifts to conventional but authentic dialogue. The entire ensemble is an unstoppable foursome.
The Wingfields are crazy great! They transport us into their very different worlds of make-believe. Cain is cringe-worthy not only as the shrew of the house but as the ghost of debutante past. Cain carries herself with Scarlet O’Hara confidence. A delicate Dubach wears an imaginary *handle with care* sign on her back. Then, Dubach exquisitely blossoms around the gallant Walter Briggs (Jim). The self-made Briggs endears with a gentle compassion for each family member. And the brooding Fleischmann looms in the background and center-stage with a memorable presence.
Figuratively and literally, every choice Tom/Fleischmann made has resulted in this very personal depiction of life’s hope and regret. The dark despair with twinkling beauty will linger with you long after you leave the theatre. THE GLASS MENAGERIE is handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. This innovative production is a must see!
Ellen describes it with “Grungy, yet sparkling”
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Hans Fleischmann
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
REMOUNTED & RE-EXTENDED Thru August 25th
Buy Tickets at www.maryarrchie.com
Production photo by Fred Bledsoe