Tennessee Williams' 'Glass
Menagerie': a titanic tale of tragedy
The Glass Menagerie
Alley Theatre's Large Stage
Director: Michael Wilson
****1/2 (out of five stars)
By Kristin Buchanan
Daily Cougar Staff
As a playwright, multiple-Pulitzer Prize
winner Tennessee Williams' work speaks for itself.
His plays, ranging from Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof to A Streetcar Named Desire, have become synonymous with household
names like Marlin
Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.
Jim Caldwell/Alley Theatre
Amanda Wingfield (Elizabeth
Ashley) and The Gentleman Caller (Grant Show) star in the Alley Theatre
production of The Glass
At the age of 34, Tennessee Williams made
a name for himself with the production of The Glass Menagerie, a tragic
story about the
heartache of unrealized dreams.
The Alley Theatre's production of this
hauntingly beautiful tale features an all-star cast of seasoned actors
including Tony Award winner
Elizabeth Ashley as Amanda Wingfield,
Robert Sella as her son Tom, Grant Show in the role of the Gentleman Caller
and Anne Dudek as
the frail Laura.
The Glass Menagerie tells the story of
a faded southern belle (Amanda) and her attempts to mold her children into
Ashley does a beautiful job of highlighting
the controlling, micromanaging ways of her character. Despite the flourishing
social life Amanda
enjoyed in her youth, it's clear that
she has been doomed to a life of poverty.
The play centers around what seems to be
the last chance for Laura, a painfully timid young woman, to surpass her
economic and social
Laura is crippled, in more ways than one.
She is socially challenged and her shyness kept her from making friends,
meeting guys and
graduating from high school or secretary
school. Her inability to deal with reality drives her to a fabricated world
inspired by her collection of
Laura's glass menagerie represents her
own delicate nature. The unicorn, her favorite among the menagerie, symbolizes
Laura the most
because, like the horned creature, she
has something that makes her unique and that ensures that she'll never
Her brother Tom, an equally sympathetic
character, works at a factory to support his mom and sister and writes
poetry on his breaks. At
night, he escapes his overbearing mother
by going to the "movies" until dawn.
When Amanda pushes him into drafting one
of his co-workers to call on Laura, the manipulation produces dismal results.
Tom's friend, known as The Gentleman Caller,
symbolizes everything that the family longs for, but can never have. To
Amanda, he's the
one last prospect that her daughter has
for a "normal" life.
He's handsome, he holds a normal job and
he's not an alcoholic.
To Tom, he's a glimmer of hope that somewhere
beyond the factory and ordinary life is the chance to better one's self
and move up in life.
He goes to night school and makes preparations
for becoming a business manager someday.
To Laura, he's the only guy that could
get through her wall of shyness and see the value in her.
Sadly, when he leaves, that promise of
a different life, a better life, goes with him.
What makes this play intriguing is the
similarities between the play and Williams' own life.
Tom begins the play saying, "I give you
truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." The Glass Menagerie is an
indirect approach at telling
Williams' life story.
In real life, Williams' own sister was
placed in a sanatorium for schizophrenia. Like Williams, Tom Winger is
a poet, escaping his dull world
through the written word.
The play in itself is poetic, illustrating
the depths of denial people will go to in order to escape reality.
The Alley Theatre's production of The Glass
Menagerie continues through Sept. 22. Tickets range from $25 to $50 and
can be purchased
online at www.alleytheatre.org and by
phone at (713) 228-8421.