ANW's The Glass Menagerie Melds 'Laura' with Her Real Counterpart

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
Print

It may be confusing to hear hospital sounds over the PA system before the play begins in Geoff Elliott’s innovative production of The Glass Menagerie. Elliott has managed to meld Tennessee Williams’ fictional recreation with images of his real-life sister, Rose.

To accomplish this feat, Tom – the fictional Tom played by Rafael Goldstein --- sits in Rose’s wheelchair to begin the play, breaking the fourth wall. For the many who have read Menagerie in classes, his monologue is at once familiar and contemporary. When Tom’s sister Laura (Erica Soto) and mother Amanda (Deborah Strang), arrive, we are more than ready to understand that they are memories as Tennessee remembered them.

Because the ensemble, all resident members of A Noise Within work together regularly, the cohesion among them is palpable. Deborah Strang has moved the character up a notch in her absurd journey into her youthful past.  Erica Soto works with a distinct “clump” to accompany her intense introversion. Together, they justify how Tom left home despite his urge to protect them. That leaves Jim, the gentleman caller (Kasey Mahafy), an often-unsung role, whose sympathy for Laura sometimes overshadows the tragedy inherent in their encounter.  Here, Mahafy paints Jim as just as much of a desolate character as the rest of the family, who finds himself trapped in the tedium of a depression-era Southern town.

To depict the intertwining of deep past with more recent past, set designer Fred Kinney has imaged the key moments of memory – the fire-escape, the glass menagerie, and the gramophone. Costumer Jenny Foldenaur provides Amanda with a deliciously inappropriate gown for the dinner scene, and lighting designer Ken Booth helps with the gauzy – memory look.  Those hospital sounds, and original music from Robert Oriol, add meaning to an otherwise puzzling juxtaposition between “fiction” and “reality”

As Williams designated, Elliott employs a rear screen (by Kristin Campbell) for a 50s-era television set (the play’s present-past) with headlines for the memory play unfolding before it (the depression era-past).  If I’ve confused you by now, it all becomes clear when, at the end of the play, Soto sits alone and apparently comatose in the wheelchair that started the play

The Glass Menagerie performs in repertory through April 26, 2019, with Othello (April 28th) and Argonautika (May 5) at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. See www.anoisewithin.org for complete schedule. Ticket prices start at $25.00. Phone (626) 356-3114 or online at www.anoisewithin.org.