Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, September, 1998
Weston Playhouse is closing its 1998 season with a production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie". This is a first for Weston - in all its 62 years of producing plays it has never mounted Williams' 1945 classic. It may be a first for Weston, but it is the second professional production of "Glass Menagerie" in the area this summer, and it would be hard to find people over 25 who have not read or seen this play at least once.
When you go to a show as familiar as "Glass Menagerie" it is very like turing on a rerun of "I Love Lucy". There are all the well known characters in the same old settings going through the familiar routines. Love it or hate it, you know what you are getting. Except, in the theatre, the routines are performed live by different sets of actors and it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking "That's not what Tom looks like" or "Laura doesn't do it that way."
Weston has mounted a good production of "Glass Menagerie". Certainly more than good enough to introduce the play to the local school groups who will attend the show in the coming week.
Weston has assembled a good cast and placed them on a fascinating set by. The set is both transparent and opaque depending on the lighting, so that there can be many layers of vision and action on the stage - just as there is in any normal home. Laura setting the dining table while Amanda is on the phone in the parlor and Tom is smoking on the fire escape outside. Parallel lives being lived in the close quarters of a small coldwater flat in St. Louis.
Director Malcolm Ewan chooses not to use the Brechtian device of projected titles and images that Williams suggests in his script. But lighting designer Tim Fort does use the pools of light focused on characters peripheral to the action, and the dim lighting Williams claims is needed for a "memory play". If only Duncan Edwards' sound design was on a par with the rest of the production. At one point I mistook Laura's glass menagerie theme music for the sounds of an orchestra tuning up in the distance.
Barbara Lloyd is the right age to play Amanda Wingfield, and she does so with charm and grace. She does not try to play Amanda as a young girl trapped in the body of a mature woman. Instead she brings the charm that has always been a part of Amanda's southern up-bringing to the fore when it is called for.
Timothy Gulan is an interesting Tom. If you have been used to seeing Tom portrayed as the tortured, dreamy artist, Gulan's performance may shock or annoy you. He is a spoiled brat of a Tom, constantly in his mother's face, fighting against her efforts to keep the family afloat rather than assisting her.
At first I did not like Monica Koskey as Laura. Her limp was barely visible and her acting seemed forced. She looked altogether too pretty and healthy to be Laura. But after the second act and her long scene with The Gentleman Caller, Jim O'Connor (Jake Storms), her performance grew on me and finally won me over. Laura's defects do not have to be apparent to the world at large - only in her mind and in the minds of Amanda and Tom. The fact that she was young and pretty and her limp was barely noticeable made Jim's interest in helping her all the more plausible.
Storms was an appealing Jim. I almost wished he and Laura could live happily ever after, but, like that old rerun of "I Love Lucy" I knew all too well how it would turn out. Storms made Jim's betrayal all the more poignant because you understood how he could care for Koskey's Laura.
"The Glass Menagerie" runs through September 12 at the Weston Playhouse, on the green on Route 100 in the village of Weston, VT. Call 802-824-5288 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1998