In celebration of playwright Tennessee Williams' centennial, the has staged a fresh and provocative new production of , Williams' first big hit when it made its way to Broadway in 1945.
Much of the play reflects Williams' life: his struggle to write, his homosexuality, his love for a disabled sister, and finally, his need to escape from his family and the desperation of their circumstances.
Director Jasson Minadakis has assembled a fine cast. Nicholas Pelczar is Tom Wingfield, big brother to his disabled sister Amanda (Sherman Fracher) and son of once-beautiful Laura (Anna Bullard). Tom is the taciturn observer and narrator, Amanda is frozen in her solitude, and Laura is their berating mother, endlessly pushing them to move the family forward.
The characters are written to express themselves excessively; their outbursts underscore not their strife and hopelessness but their belief in something better to come.
A brilliant stroke in this production is the addition of an above-stage trumpeter (Andrew Wilke) who riffs melancholy phrases throughout the play. He represents Tom and Amanda's father, who left the family long ago.
Wilke plays a mean and blue trumpet, and his constant presence underlines the intense connections within this family. They care for each other, and finally things seem to turn up with the visit of a "gentleman caller'' for Amanda (Craig Marker's winsome Jim), but hopes are dashed and Tom prepares to abandon the family.
MTC's vision of Depression-era St. Louis (design by Kat Conley) is ideal. The Wingfields live in a stripped-down, no-exit apartment with an iron fire escape: It looks like a giant steel trap.
The characters walk around the trap, moving their hands to suggest serving dinner or eating, or playing with Amanda's glass figurines. These gestures distract at first, and then serve to bring home the want and scarcity in their lives.
The Glass Menagerie runs through Dec. 18 at Marin Theatre Company, 387 Miller Avenue. For more info or to buy tickets, go to the MTC website.
--Bay City News Service