‘The Glass Menagerie’
Community Theatre of LR
Seeing through glass
The Community Theatre’s production of modern American playwright Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” under the direction of Andy Hall, sought to bring to life Williams’ most personally affected story in the homely atmosphere of the Woolly Auditorium.
Set in a St. Louis tenement during the Depression, “Menagerie” follows the Wingfield family — Amanda (Rebecca Burton), the aged Southern belle, and her two children Laura (Sharon Pitts) and Tom (John Smith). They are themselves young adults, but being held under the strong hand of their mother, they are repressed into a perpetual adolescence and confusion of personal identity.
In many ways, the tragedy is a play on memory. While Tom is both a character in the story and the narrator recalling the events to the audience, his mother is stuck in past memories, ever ready with genteel tales of her youth, when she was in constant bid by gentlemen callers.
Also, Williams himself incorporated a great deal of autobiographical detail into the play, which makes an entirely self-reflexive story: Even during its telling, it is being crafted by the memory of its teller.
Oddly enough, the best parts of the play were during Tom’s interspersed narration on the outside fire escape, which both recaps the play’s actions and characters and explains the very obvious, and even intrusive, symbolism that drives the story — hence the never-ending references to glass, that like the memory of the characters, only vaguely but poignantly shines the colors it reflects.
Most of the other scenes, however, although interesting in relation to Tom’s account of them, are often trite and dull. Even though Burton provided Mrs. Wingfield with a guffaw of vitality, the character itself did little in return to allow Burton to bring much of an authentic voice of her own to the stage. The same goes for the character of Laura — while Pitt’s frail body and reserved speech could have made for an involving performance, the character itself is only a frail, muted projection of Tom’s recollection of her.
It’s hard for any one reviewer to rail against one of the 20th century’s dramatic giants and survive amid the flood of praise the play has received since its premiere in 1945. But like the play itself, perhaps its success a half-century ago would be better served in retrospect, instead of shattering it by repeated performances like the brittle piece it really is.
The play continues Friday through Sunday at the Arkansas School for the Blind’s auditorium.
— By Dustin Allen