The Glass Menagerie is a memory play that will take you on a journey alongside a family knitted together with memories of shattered dreams. The play is set in St. Louis, USA, in the late 1930s. Amanda Wingfield, played brilliantly by Laney McLean, is tormented by regrets. After being raised in a lavish lifestyle where she was pursued by a fine choice of gentlemen callers – one time she recalls having seventeen gentleman callers at once and not enough seats to seat them all – she fell in love, outside her class, with a charming but irresponsible telephone operator who fell in love with long distance – never to return.
The Glass Menagerie is an example of the power of words and how they can have a dramatic impact on people's lives. The saying, 'What you fear the most will come to pass,' is what this story is about. Amanda's fears become her words which she ingrains in her children, unconsciously crippling them. Her painfully shy daughter, Laura, lives in a fantasy world, which she creates within her glass menagerie, where she feels safe from the harshness of reality, and the expectations placed on her by her overbearing mother. Whether Laura's dissociation with society is caused by her physical defect which causes her to walk with a limp, or her mother's disappointment in this defect which is obstructing her chances of marriage is open to question.
The psychology behind it has rendered Laura useless; unable to attend college, business school, or have any association with people because of the debilitating fear of being rejected she has created within herself. Her mother's constant reminiscing of being the belle of the ball in her youth has made Laura believe she is doomed to being the wallflower and crushed any spirit of hope in her until a gentleman caller shakes her foundations, only to have them crumble into a powdery dust.
Amanda's son, Tom, played superbly by Sasha Cuha is also the narrator of the play, as it is his memory which he is sharing with the audience. He opens with the lines, 'Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.'
Tom is the glue that holds the family together. His obvious frustration with his obligations to financially support both his mother and sister is at breaking point. A poet at heart, he works in a shoe warehouse which drains his soul of any pleasure. To compensate, he spends as much time as possible at the 'movies' with a side order of cigarettes and alcohol to calm his nerves.
James Fitchett plays the long awaited gentleman caller. His presence creates a shift in tension and stirs the air with hope. There is an interesting chemistry between the actors. Some humorous moments, poignant moments and moments of frustration that are no doubt shared individually by each audience member.
The Glass Menagerie is beautifully directed by Noella Johnson with the clever use of lighting, visuals and music that works a treat to create the perfect emotional ambiance. The lighting, in keeping with the atmosphere of the memory, is dim with shafts of light focussed on the actors, not necessarily when they are speaking. In keeping with the fact that the play is a memory, sometimes the light is focussed on Laura when she is being spoken about by Amanda and Tom.
There is much to admire in this play. I was captivated not only by the actors but in how well they brought the words of this play to life.
The Glass Menagerie is a classic piece of theatre, beautifully written by Tennessee Williams. There is a piece of all of us in this story, somewhere, whether intentionally buried, or painfully obvious. I recommend you see it, and don't forget to bring a friend because you may want to unload your thoughts afterwards. I'd like to encourage you to support local theatre and the hardworking, dedicated actors who are passionate about their craft. I thoroughly enjoyed The Glass Menagerie and wouldn't hesitate to see it again.