Tuesday January 23rd 2018

“The Glass Menagerie”

Highly Recommended**** I am often asked about seeing a second production of a particular show in the same year, and I tell them each production and each glassmenagerielogodirector have their own special interpretation of the work, so each production has a life of its own. This was recently displayed as Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company took on Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” . Directed by Hans Fleischmann , who also takes on the lead role of  Tom ( the narrator, story teller that is in reality, Williams himself) on a unique set by Grant Sabin. For those of you unfamiliar with this company and its theater- Mary-Arrchie  is located at Angel Island, a second floor “storefront” located at 735 Sheridan Road ( at Broadway), This is a unique venue in its intimacy that allows less glitz to their productions, but more depth in the telling of their stories.

The story is about a family, one that has many problems. Tom is the man of the house, as his father ran off many years ago, never to be heard from again, yet, his photo graces the wall of their junk filled apartment. His mother Amanda ( a wonderful character study by Maggie Cain) was a southern belle, still living in the past with dreams that he daughter Laura (deftly handled by Joanne Dubach) will either have success in life or find the dream man, that she never did. Laura was ill during her high school years and has a game leg, making he very insecure in everything she does, with the exception of her glass collection- miniature animals made of glass.

One would have to call this family a dysfunctional family, each having their own problems as they try to exist in St. Louis. Tom works at one of the shoe factories, but hates his life and wants to leave and enlist in the Merchant Marines, to have adventure in his life. Each night, he leaves the house to go to the movies. In the movies, we get to live an adventure, but when the house lights come up, we go back to our tortured boring lives. That is how he feels and he also feels that his father was right in taking to the road. Amanda, living in her past is desperate to get Laura married off  and pushes Tom to bring someone home, so she can have a “gentleman Caller”. Tom does so. As it turns out, one of his co-workers , Jim ( played to perfection by Water Briggs) went to high school with both Laura and Tom and in Laura’s mind, as she recalls he was her true love. He caller “Blue Roses” because she had told him that she had pleurosis.

The big night comes and Laura is very scared of what the night will bring, but Jim tries very hard to get Laura to believe in herself and to come out of her shell. As they talk the chemistry on the stage become very intense. There is a wonderful dance sequence ( choreographed by Mark Hackman) as we watch the magic take place and see a transformation in Laura. As it turns out, all that we think is about to take place is not what it is, but Jim does wake up this family as each becomes aware of who and what they are and what their destiny will be.

This is a very slick production in a small space with some wonderful music by Daniel Knox- eerie and lovely, that sets the tones for some of the creativity that  Fleischmann brings to this  Williams’ classic. There is a great deal of projection usage that I was a bit uncomfortable with and a few times where the sound made it difficult to hear the actors, but on the whole, this is a glorious production that is worth the trip to Angel Island for. Kudos to Stefin Steberl ( costumes) and Arianna Soloway ( props) as well as Matthew Gawryk ( lighting) as these ingredients are what makes the production complete.

“The Glass menagerie” will continue through February 17th with performances as follows:   glass-poster-21-662x1024

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.

Running time is about two hours.

Tickets range  from $15 and can be purchased by calling 773-871-0442. It is open seating with limited numbers, so plan your trip soon. You can slo go online at www.maryarrchie.com

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Glass”

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