Nancy Sasso Janis
“She lives in a world of her own – a world of – little glass ornaments…”
Landmark Community Theatre at Thomaston Opera House has collaborated with Backyard Theater Ensemble to present a beautiful production of Tennessee Williams’ classic play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ on the Opera House’s main stage. Tom Wingfield tells the audience in the first of his wonderful speeches that this is a memory play, and the work is perhaps one of the most famous autobiographical plays in theatre history. It was a play that wasn’t too well in my memory, but watching the preview performance of the production at the TOH brought the plot rushing back to me. It also made me realize that the direction of Donato J. D’Albis raises this classic to a new level of art.
‘The Glass Menagerie’ includes the characters of an overbearing southern mother Amanda, an absent alcoholic father, an emotionally (and physically) crippled sister named Laura and the Tennessee Williams character of Tom. It is set in their dingy apartment and fire escape in St. Louis, Missouri around 1937 and follows a year in the life of the Wingfield family. Mr. D’Albis writes that the play is about “dreams and longing, escapes and second chances...We hear [Mr. Williams’] poetry in the lines and his pain in the verse.”
Mr. D’Albis is the only director that Backyard Theatre Ensemble has ever known and recently won the Best Director Award at the CT Community Theater Festival for his direction of ‘Laundry and Bourbon’, and deservedly so. He clearly believes in the group’s mission of challenging their audiences and themselves as artists and I would be so bold to write that as a reviewer I have come to recognize his stamp on the pieces that he directs. Congratulations to him on another fine production.
Chet Ostroski credits his long-time friend and director with guiding him with tough love to make it through the “endeavor that is Tom.” Mr. Ostroski gives an amazingly strong performance in his leading role and that prevents him from being swallowed up by the performance of Lucia Dressel of Middlebury as his smothering mother. In her debut with the Backyard Theatre Ensemble, Ms. Dressel is spellbinding to watch on the stage; her career as a professor of writing and literature and published author probably drew her to this iconic role of Amanda.
The lovely and busy community theatre actress Nicole Thomas brings Tom’s fragile sister Laura to life with care and gives some levels to what could be a one-note character. Matt Albert, often a musician in local pit orchestras, plays the gentleman caller James D. O’Connor who only appears in the second act. All maintained their southern accents and the men effectively made some entrances through the house. Katie Gomes is the offstage violinist.
Kailee Donovan and Jeffrey Dunn are the co-producers of this collaboration of Landmark and Backyard Theatre Ensemble, the first of what I hope will be many such collaborations. Mr. D’Albis designed what he calls an impressionistic set and it is what makes this production looks so wonderful, along with the exquisite lighting designed by Dylan Reilly. The illumination of the wooden end table holding the tiny glass figurines that are the “glass menagerie” is inspired. There are suspended window frames, random clothing hung on clothes lines, antique furniture and a sepia portrait of the absent character. It fills the Opera House stage and although the play would have fit on Backyard’s usual nearby stage, it was exciting to see the ensemble grow to this size.
Long-time volunteer costume designer Barbara Piscopo once again works her magic with the period costumes. Sound design of incidental music by Adam Peacock was flawless; in fact, this final dress rehearsal proceeded without the slightest hint of anything that needed to be worked upon. Two hours flew by as this fine performance unfolded before our eyes.
LCT & BTE are excited to share this artistic collaboration with audiences of all ages. Williams’ play has withstood the test of time in print, film, and on stage. Come enjoy the experience of quality live theater in a historic Connecticut landmark showing February 27, March 4, 5, 11, 12 at 8pm and February 28, March 6, 13 at 2pm.For more information on tickets and group sales, contact or visit the Box Office (860) 283-6250 Monday – Friday 1pm – 6pm and Saturday 1pm - 4pm @ 158 Main Street Thomaston, CT 06790. Or purchase tickets online: www.landmarkcommuntytheatre.org.
Pictured (From left) Matt Albert, Lucia Dressel, Chet Ostroski, Nicole Thomas Photo courtesy of Landmark Community Theatre