me·nag·er·ie [muh-naj-uh-ree, -nazh-]
1. a collection of wild or unusual animals, especially for exhibition.
2. a place where they are kept or exhibited.
3. an unusual and varied group of people.
#154. Redtwist Theatre presents THE GLASS MENAGERIE. Tom and Laura live with their mother. Tom works in a warehouse but longs to travel the world. Laura hides at home taking care of her glass animal collection. Their overbearing mother is a former southern belle with illusions of grandeur. Their father left them a long time ago. But still they wait… for his return or someone’s arrival. They need something to happen to get unstuck. THE GLASS MENAGERIE is a classic handled with care.
Playwright Tennessee Williams wrote this autobiographical memory play. Williams gave the world a compelling glimpse of his childhood: a domineering mother, an endearing sister and an absent father. Director Josh Altman takes the splintered remains of Williams past and makes it real. The set designed by Henry Behel is like a type of doll house. There is an old fashion living room but it’s encircled by space. Not only is the audience looking into this childhood memory but Altman also has Ryan Heindl (Tom aka Tennessee) often on the outskirts as an observer. In addition, an over-size picture of the deadbeat father looms just outside the homey interior. It’s a powerful metaphor to the essences of the play.
Heindl delivers a perfectly conflicted performance. His disdain for his mother and his compassion for his sister keep him unhappily rooted. Jacqueline Grandt (mom) plays cruel with masterful determination and “Mommie Dearest” sniping. Grandt’s hostess skills are uncomfortably authentic and awkward. Her fake laughter and flirting are nails-on-the-chalkboard icky. Sarah Mayhan (Laura) is a heartbreaker. Mayhan blossoms on stage. Her chemistry with Chris Daley (Jim) is just ah-shucks-sweet. The amicable Daley brings the charm with a light-hearted touch.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE is complicatedly simplistic. It’s a poignant childhood tribute to the legendary playwright. There are plenty of versions of THE GLASS MENAGERIE this year in Chicago. Redtwist’s production is straightforward with equal parts fragility and strength. The polished truth left me unsettled and hopeful.
Continuing to decipher the play’s message long after the curtain, Ellen describes it with ‘let him go.’
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr
Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Josh Altman
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
EXTENDED Thru September 16th
Buy Tickets at www.redtwist.org