Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The Glass Menagerie"

Walnut Street Theatre Performs The Glass Menagerie

by Frankie Lovec
    The Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Tennessee Williams’ classic: The Glass Menagerie is terrifically executed and gives a haunting portrayal of the broken Wingfield family, and each of the crosses they bare.
    The second the lights dim, the box cluttered stage is illuminated by a cool, blue filter and dusty jazz music buzzes from the speakers off stage. The audience is immediately locked in.              
    We are taken back to a cramped apartment nestled in a working class neighborhood in St. Louis during the 1940s. Tom (Damon Bonetti) then struts on the stage bundled in an old pea coat and toboggan and quickly breaks the fourth wall. “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket. I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician,” Bonetti lets out in a dry southern draw, while simultaneously ripping white blankets hiding old furniture and creating the environment for which the play is set.      
    “He gives you illusions that have the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” Tom then gives us the back-story of the play, letting us know that it is a “memory play” that takes place from his point of view.
    In this scene, Bonetti gains momentum that lasts him throughout the entire play, allowing him to take the character and define it into two completely different people, flushing out every dynamic of the character.                     When Tom is actually present in the scenes, Bonetti perfectly displays the charm, wit and angst of the character. However, when narrating, he trades in some of Tom’s charm for a more haunting presence and vulnerability, making Tom more real and it easier to care about the wellbeing of the character.
    The characters that inhabit Tom’s memory, however, are the juiciest part of the play. His mother, Amanda (Wendy Scharfman) is an old-fashioned, beautiful, charismatic, southern bell who lives through her son, Tom, and her crippled (socially and medically) daughter, Laura (Jillian Louis).  Amanda does this with a sick desperation to try and motivate her kids to have a life of riches that traded for rags because she married their unnamed, alcoholic father. Their father, only known as Mr. Wingfield, is described as a man who worked for the telephone company and eventually be “in love with long distances.” Amanda’s frustration is shown in the way she finds constant faults in Tom and disappointment with Laura’s love life.
    Scharfman does exactly what she is supposed to by letting her over-the-top mannerisms and selfishness blend perfectly with an underlying, relatable aggravation and empathy of her failed love.          
    However, the biggest tragedy lies in Laura. Crippled in high school and forced to wear a leg brace (a ’la Forrest Gump) causing Laura to develop a paranoia about herself and the way others see her that eventually leads to her becoming more socially awkward than she already was.
    From the moment that Louis hobbles on stage, to the moment she blows out the candles, she embodies every attribute that Laura represents, losing herself in the character. She brings beauty and innocence to Laura’s tragedy and makes the audience feel every trimmer of pain and cold sweat of anxiety that keeps her locked in fear.             
    Jim O'Conner (Jared Michael Delaney), a friend of Tom’s and a high school infatuation of Laura’s, tries to break this hold that her insecurities have on her at a dinner set up by her brother and mother.
    Delaney is very sweet and adds just the right hint of charm for the role, covering up the pretentious nature of the character but still keeping the audience uneasy about his presence.
            The Walnut Street Theatre is traveling with this production of The Glass Menagerie in celebration of Tennessee Williams’ centennial. For more information on tickets and location for the show visit their web site http://www.walnutstreettheatre.org/season/. Founded in 1809 and hailing from Philadelphia, Pa., The Walnut Street Theatre is a featured part of WVU Parkersburg’s Distinguished Performance Series.

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