The Tennessee Williams classic, The Glass Menagerie, is a play that has been done to death. However, the Triad Stage production brings it to a whole new glittering life. This sensational production, which opened on Sunday, Sept. 5th, twists and warps the classic in a truly amazing way. Instead of filling the usual tall cabinet full of tiny glass animals, scenic designer Anya Klepikov suspends the menagerie from the ceiling, where it glistens eerily throughout the performance. Fifty-three amazingly crafted blown-glass animals and clouds make up the menagerie. They combine with a minimalist set — a giant sheet of Plexiglas with broken glass glued to its underside, spread over the stage, divided into squares like a checkerboard, and lit from below and above — and with actors clad completely in white to give a dreamlike quality to a story that unfolds exactly as it was meant to — as a memory.
As an added novelty, Tom, played to perfection by an intense Matthew Carlson, uses a handheld camcorder to broadcast the show’s key moments onto a backdrop screen and visually underscore the play’s most dramatic moments. Close-ups of the actors’ faces appear onscreen throughout the performance, and serve to bring the audience even closer to the characters. The screen also broadcasts events that take place in another room, such as the tense dinner in the dark with the long-awaited Gentleman Caller.
Carlson’s Tom broods with sullenness and despair, updating the character enough to make him resonate with today’s viewers but never losing the authentic 1930s feel. Kate Goehring plays Tom’s meddling mother Amanda as sympathetic and surprisingly humorous, garnering several unexpected laughs.
Young Cheryl Koski’s doe-eyed Laura stands out above the rest. Koski makes Laura everything she is supposed to be — shy, sweet, and hopelessly naïve — but she also adds a darkly sad undertone to her personality. She is both beautiful and frightening to watch.
This remarkable cast, under the inspired direction of Preston Lane, works together well, making the relationships between the three remaining members of the dysfunctional Wingfield family honest, believable, and genuinely enjoyable, despite their obvious imperfections. The family feels so real that the audience holds their collective breath when the Gentleman Caller (Tyler Hollinger), Tom’s current co-worker and — unbeknownst to Tom — Laura’s secret crush during high school, enters the scene. Hollinger’s interactions with a tongue-tied, star-struck Laura are charming and often funny, even if the character himself is not exactly likeable.
Although the story is old, and most audience members know how it will end, there is still a glimmer of hope for a burgeoning relationship between this unlikely pair. This faint hope makes the play’s sad ending all the more poignant.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 15th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Lynn Jessup: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/092010/TS1.html; and Sept. 14th Jamestown, NC JAMESTOWN NEWS review by Lenise Willis: http://jamestownnews.womacknewspapers.com/articles/2010/09/14/news/lifestyles/lifestyles63.txt.
Triad Stage presents THE GLASS MENAGERIE at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14-16 and 21-23, 8 p.m. Sept. 17-18 and 24-25, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and 26 in the Pyrle Theater at Triad Stage , 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, North Carolina 27401.
BOX OFFICE: 866/579-TIXX, 336/272-0160, or http://purchase.tickets.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 336/274-0067, ext. 221; email@example.com; or http://www.triadstage.org/tickets/group.php.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk5XazDvn_c.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21st performance.
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Menagerie (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=3932 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042509/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Williams (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=Tennessee&last=Williams&middle= (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8822 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0931783/ (Internet Movie Database).