Review: 'The Glass Menagerie' at Theatre Three
Written by one of the greatest playwrights of the American Theatre, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie opens the 54th season at Theatre Three with success. With a story and characters that mimic Williams own life, Williams put a bit of his own life into the story’s protagonist, Tom. Since its premiere, audiences have been drawn into the story of the Wingfield family. A favorite among educational and professional theatre companies, there have also been several film adaptations of The Glass Menagerie, with the most recognizable being in 1950 with Jane Wyman as Laura, and Kirk Douglas as the Gentleman Caller, Jim. No matter what the medium, The Glass Menagerie continues to entertain, and William’s work lives on in the theatre-no matter how big or small.
Set in the 1940’s, and told mostly as memory play-Tom Wingfield recalls and shares memories of his mother, Amanda, and his older sister, Laura. The three share a small, dingy apartment in St. Louis as Amanda longs for the comforts and admirations she remembers from her days as a fêted debutante. She worries about the future of her daughter, Laura, a young woman with a limp (after a bout of pleurisy [pronounced as pleurosis in the play]) and a tremendous amount of insecurity and shyness about the outside world. Tom does the best to support the family, while he is faced with the boredom and banality of everyday life. Amanda is obsessed with finding a suitor for Laura (or as she puts it- a “gentleman caller”), and pressures Tom to find a suitor for Laura. Tom invites home an acquaintance from work for dinner, much to the delight of his mother.
Set Designer Bruce Richard Coleman nicely transformed Theatre Three’s Norma Young Arena Stage into the small apartment of the Wingfield family. I was impressed with his attention to detail, using wonderful period props to dress the set while also creating a very intimate space for audiences. I was also impressed with Coleman’s overall vision and design. One of the gems was the use of levels that Mr. Coleman incorporated into his scenic design, allowing the audience to experience the different areas of the Wingfield home. I loved how something so simple could really draw the audience into the play. These playing areas provided effective stage pictures of a simplistic life when families joined together for dinner at the table, read the newspaper and listened to phonographs on the record player. It was an excellent way to transform the remaining space into the time period.
Lighting was designed by Lisa Miller. There are few things a lighting designer can implement in such a straightforward play to represent day and night. However, I felt the mood was established and consistent throughout the course of the play. There were some lovely silhouettes that were established giving the allusion of a dark inner personality of each of these characters. I especially enjoyed seeing a very tender scene between Laura and Jim, in a darkened room (lit by low warm candlelight-in the midst of a loss of electricity in the plot). At times, I feel that lighting can be an afterthought in such a straight production; however, Ms. Miller really brought some nice details (window lighting, and transition lighting to demonstrate a pause in Tom’s memory as he recalls the events for the audience).
Assisting the lighting and set, sound designer Rich Frohlich carried through with his selection of music throughout the play. I especially appreciated his vast selection of songs. I believe music can make or break a play, allowing the audience to experience the setting, mood and theme of a production. It was nice to hear the quintessential sounds of the Big Band Era, allowing audiences to travel back to the 1940’s, when Benny Goodman ruled the radio. As an audiophile, I was greatly satisfied by the library of songs Frohlich selected and chose to take audiences back to 1940’s. The instrumental underscoring of each scene was also a nice touch to enhance the emotion to each scene.
In addition to direction and scenic design, Coleman also designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. I especially enjoyed the dress that Amanda wore in the second act-a wonderful example of her days as the belle of Southern charm. In contrast to her mother’s dress, Laura was dressed in a lovely more modern 1940’s dress with blue flowers-an allusion to her nickname that is mentioned throughout the story. Costumes were visually appealing, and were well executed.
Allison Pistorius was very remarkable in the role of Laura Wingfield. Through facial expressions, voice, and a youthful appearance, Pistorius convincingly portrayed the twenty-something, painfully shy young girl with the innocence of a child, lost in the world of her glass animal collection. Ms. Pistorius had some wonderful and complex moments with her gentleman caller, Jim (played wonderfully by Sterling Gafford) in the penultimate scene of the play, giving her character more depth and dimension.
Another standout performance was Connie Coit in the role of Amanda, a faded Southern Belle seeking to regain her glory days, and to marry off her daughter. Ms. Coit was very powerful as the matriarch of the Wingfield family, with incredible chemistry with Tom (played impressively by Blake Blair). Not only did Coit come across as the domineering mother figure, but also provided the appropriate dose of comedy to many of the most intense and dramatic scenes.
Theatre Three’s production of The Glass Menagerie is definitely worth seeing. The meticulous care for detail is evident in all aspects of the production, and makes for a wonderful experience. This is a classic of the American Theatre, and Theatre Three’s production does not disappoint. The Glass Menagerie has entertained audiences for generations, and launched Tennessee Williams’ career as one of the great American playwrights.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
2800 Routh Street Suite 168 (in the Quadrangle), Dallas, Texas 75201
Through August 23
Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30pm
Hooky Matinee-Wednesday, August 12th at 2:00 pm
Saturday Matinee-August 22nd at 2:30 pm
(Note: Only one Saturday Matinee per show)
Tickets prices are $35.00 and $32.00 for seniors 65+. Student tickets are $17.50. For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.theatre3dallas.com or call their box office at 214-871-3300.