Definition of Menagerie: a strange or diverse collection of people or things
The Glass Menagerie: an interestingly strange and diverse collection of people
The things that I absolutely love about the theatre is the passion, creativity and tenacity of those involved. This production of The Glass Menagerie demonstrates just that. American Legacy Theatre Producer Mathew David Gellin and Director Greg Procaccino from Thomas More University went above and beyond in their passion, creativity and tenacity to present this play. Originally scheduled in March, there was a location issue. Then after finding an amazing place, two of the actors who had been rehearsing the roles, Eylie Lorenz and Bryce Herzner, (there are only four actors in the play) became seriously ill literally two days before opening night.
So what’s a producer to do? Quick thinking and luck helped solve their problem. Two actors who originally were involved in the play are taking over the roles of the ill actors. They will use a script, at least initially, since they have little time to memorize their parts. They are all so good, the scripts are barely noticeable. And I would love to see these amazing actors in other roles as well.
The History of The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie, if you didn’t read it in high school, was Tennessee Williams’ break-out play first presented in 1944. Terms such as “memory play” (the lead character narrates the play through his/her own memory of events) and “plastic theatre” (the use of set design, music, lighting, and other tools to elicit strong emotions from the audience) were initially used by Tennessee Williams. This play is considered an “expressionist play,” again using sensory tools to create a strong emotional reaction. Thus the simple set, and the use of lighting, music, sounds and incredible acting transports the audience to their alternative reality.
This production of The Glass Menagerie is playing at the ARCO Building in Price Hill, which is gorgeous. Everyone you meet is warm and sincerely happy that you have come to join them. The “theater” is in a huge room. The extremely simple set design only takes up a small area in the middle of the room with audience chairs on two sides of the set. The actors use the space well through simple techniques leading the audience to believe one end of the room is the entrance of the home and the fire escape and the other end the rest of the home (out of the audience’s view).
Imagine St. Louis in 1937. A family where the alcoholic father is no longer present, two adult children still living at home, one incapable of dealing with the harsh realities of life and the other resentful and straining to live life without the burden of taking care of his family financially.
Geoffrey Hill, who powerfully plays Tom Wingfield, is the person who is telling this story through his lens with all of a person’s flawed memory and perspectives. Hill is obviously a natural actor. He is comfortable in his own skin and shows the passion of Tom Wingfield through his voice and physicality. Tom is the brother of Laura Wingfield (Isabella Keyes), the son of Amanda Wingfield (Annie Davis), and friend to Jim O’Connor (Gavin Borchers).
Annie Davis brings a humanity to Amanda that I missed earlier times I have read or viewed this play. Amanda is clueless to the needs of her children but Davis’ interpretation of her makes Amanda human. Davis’ slight sways of her hips when reminiscing of her own life filled with beaus makes the audience realize that her life didn’t turn out as she had hoped. Her admission to some of her own failings makes her more like us. My favorite parts of Davis’ performances are the cane drops to emphasize her emotions. Oh did I mention that Annie Davis is blind? Well, that is why she carries a cane.
Laura Wingfield has a limp and also a psychological disorder where she focuses her life on glass figurines and phonograph records that her father had left. This, for me, was surprising…Isabella Keyes took on the part only two days before the show I attended. She carries a script which I thought would be disruptive to the play. But she plays Laura so well that it is barely noticeable. Her body, her voice, her demeanor, and her facial expressions are so true. It is the sign of an amazing actor.
Gavin Borchers plays Jim O’Connor, and projects a Jimmy Stewart vibe, which is perfect for this play’s time period. His behavior leaves one flummoxed. Is he a good guy? A bad guy? Is he genuine or a con artist? Borchers takes the audience through all those thoughts effortlessly after only two days of studying for the part.
A shout out to Kieran Casey, Sound & Light. Sounds, music and lighting are always extremely important in Williams’ plays and in this particular theatre space it must have been difficult to get it right.
Chances to See The Glass Menagerie
Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the most innovative and powerful plays of all time, performed by excellent actors.
The following show times are:
Saturday 6/3/23 at 7:30 pm
Sunday 6/4/23 at 2:00 pm
Friday and Saturday at 6/9/23 and 6/10/23 at 7:30 pm