Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 14


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 her preconceived

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
glass animals.

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 fit in.

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.

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