Review: “The Glass Menagerie” by Pigeonhold Theatre Company

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  • Katherine Hebert, Contributing Critic - New York City

“The Glass Menagerie” is a Tennessee Williams’ classic that needs no introduction.  Often thought of as autobiographical the piece explores the weight of familial obligations and the dangers living in the past all told through the lens of a memory by the play’s focal point, a  guilt-ridden Tom who is often thought to be a stand-in for Williams himself.

Justin Fuller is making his directorial debut with Pigeonholed’s production of “The Glass Menagerie”. Successfully pulling off a classic as emotionally complex and beloved as the “Glass Menagerie” would be a challenge for even the most seasoned director. Fuller, for the most part, accomplishes this feat, displaying a natural instinct for metaphorical interpretation but will occasionally take this a step too far making the choice feel a bit heavy-handed. When it works, it’s effective, for instance, the choice to mime specific props rather than having them there is a strong choice as it makes the piece feel fragmented and memory like. Which makes sense as Fuller has taken the classic line “The play is a memory” as a sort of thesis statement for his interpretation of this piece. Because of this, the set is rather minimalistic which serves the piece thematically as since this is a memory it would stand to reason that parts of the room would be missing or slightly exaggerated. Where choices like this don’t work comes from a lack of restraint. An excellent example of this is the choice to shine a spotlight onto the picture of Tom and Laura’s absentee father every time he is mentioned while a good idea in theory, in practice it’s jolting and a little distracting. Perhaps if the spotlight stayed on the whole play, or the flash only happened once or twice, it would have been, but as is it leaves something to be desired.

Despite these gripes, we’re still left with a solid production rounded out by a cast of talented actors. Justin Cimino brings an excellent natured humor to the ever-distracted Tom Wingfield avoiding the mellow-drama that Williams’s writing so often lends itself to. This makes the inevitable explosion between Tom and Amanda at the end of Act 2 all the more powerful. Countering this is Kate Sparer who brings a very human take to Amanda who is perhaps the most notorious character in Tennessee Williams’s canon. Sparer’s Amanda flights of fancy are tethered to reality leaving us with a calculative eccentric woman that’s riddled with regret and prone to delusion. Sparer’s interpretation of Amanda is tragic without ever falling into the trap of victimhood. Sparer’s Amanda is a fighter, and her take on this role is worth the price of admission.

Similarly, Laura Piccoli’s take on Laura is reserved and honest.  Piccoli’s Laura maintains her dignity and always sees a glimmer of hope. Contrary to the text Piccoli’s Laura doesn’t dwell in her circumstances. You believe that her character could survive Tom’s absence.  Padraig Carragher has a brilliant take on the deceptively challenging Jim O’Connor. His character acts as the sole outsider in the world of the play. Jim O’Connor serves as the only third party to enter the dysfunctional household this way the audience is able to gauge how much of the family’s plight is legitimate based solely on Jim’s reactions. Carragher handles this challenge very well, and his scene with Laura which some consider to be the heart of the play is charming and heartfelt. With Carragher and Piccoli sharing palpable chemistry.

Overall Pigeonhold’s take on “The Glass Menagerie” is heartfelt and honest. It is running at the Secret Theatre February 13th-16th, 19th-23rd, at 7:30 pm then February 17th at 2 pm, and it’s worth checking out.