Saturday June 24th 2017

“The Glass Menagerie”

Highly Recommended****For those of you familiar with Redtwist Theatre, that little black box that does red hot drama located in Edgewater, you know that you can always expect quality work, and with their latest offering, Tennessee Williams masterpiece, autobiography dealing with false hopes, desperation and survival, they have taken us closer into the personalities of the characters.For those of you unfamiliar, now is your time to learn why this company gets nomination after nomination from the Jeff Awards. Redtwist is a very intimate theater, a pure storefront located on Bryn Mawr Avenue, with people walking on the sidewalks only yards away from the  stage, but once you enter this “black box” realty disappears- you are in a theater that allows the passion of the playwright and the work of the actors to allow you to leave your life outside on Bryn Mawr so you can see the lives that Williams has created on the stage.

Directed by Josh Altman on a creative set by Henry Behel, we are in the apartment of  what easily could be Williams’ family. He is represented by Tom ( a strong performance by Ryan Heindl, who is also our story teller. His mother is deftly played by Jaqueline Grandt and his sister by Sarah Mayan. They live in St. Louis. The mother, Amanda , once a lovely Southern Belle, who chose wrong and has been abandoned by her husband, left caring for two youngsters, is in hopes that her daughter, Laura, who has a slight defect, will find a “gentleman caller” who will give her the life she had hoped for herself. Tom, like his father, is unhappy with his life and escapes from his day to day existence each night to the movies. A pure dysfunctional family each with their own dreams and illusions, hopes of a better life and desperate to survive and exist.

Laura has no faith in herself and spends her days in her own make believe world with her glass collection, one that her mother calls her “Glass Menagerie”. Amanda is desperate for her daughter to find the right man and when Tom invites a co-worker to dinner, Amanda begins to shine with the possibility of her dreams and hopes coming true. As it turns out, Jim ( a strong performance by Chris Daley) attended high scholl with both on the Wingfilields and Laura had a deep crush on him those six years earlier. In fact, both Tom and Laura admired and worshipped Jim in those days. He had it all. He wa spopular, was in the musical, chorus and had all that they were lacking.In his dinner scene with Laura, one that appears to be quite romantic as directed by Altman, we learn that Jim also had dreams broken and that he didn’t give up- he will attain higher a position in his life and tries to show Laura that she can as well.

Being done in a theater the size of Redtwist adds a certain amount of intimacy that I have never experienced with this play and I applaud them for taking on something as strong as this play, one that is truly white hot drama! A production such as this one relies on all the parts to work together- the director and his actors can only bring a script to life with solid production people and “Menagerie” has just that. The lighting by Heather Gilbert sets the moods of each scene’s emotional status, the original music by Christopher Kriz solidifies what Williams is saying and Kelsey Ettman’s costumes along with props by Nick Heggestad complete the picture. I guess the only things in this production that bothered me was the fake smoking by Tom. In fact, many of the theaters, since smoking is no longer allowed on stage, have gone to the “electronic” cigarette, which looks fake and often that actor who is asked to handle this prop, is not, or has never been a smoker, thus they hold it wrong and don’t light it properly ( or even dispose of it in the right way). I wish there was another way to present a smoker when the script of action calls for it, as I find it distracting from that action and often one little distraction can take one’s focus away from what is in most ways a must see production of a classic play in the most intimate of settings one can imagine.

“Menagerie” will continue at Redtwist Theatre, located at  1044 West Bryn Mawr ( between Broadway and Sheridan) through September 2nd ( although I see this as another one they should hold over) with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. ( running time a little over 2 hours with one intermission)

August 18th will not have a performance

Tickets range from $25-$30 ( one of the best theater bargains in the city) and can be  reserved by calling 773-728-7529 or e-mailing reserve@redtwist.org

to learn more about this marvelous theater company, visit www.retwist.org

to see what others say about this production, visit www.theatreinchicago.com  , go to review round-up and click on “The Glass Menagerie

Parking is a bit hard in Edgewater, meters are available ( two hour limit) and some street parking on the side streets, but the RedLine is just a block away so that makes the most sense. Lots of great dining spots on the street and some even have valet parking- check the Redtwist website

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