Out of a three-ring dance between an abandoned mother, a disabled daughter, and a disgruntled son steps some of the most pressing issues of our day: from disability and the role it plays in self-esteem, to the latent affects of alcoholism. Add the grim realities of single motherhood, and the play, written over 50 years ago, is strikingly relevant to our world today.
Known for his other plays, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams has a hard-hitter with The Glass Menagerie. With the absent and alcoholic father’s picture still moodily hanging over the family’s living room, we catch a glimpse into a struggling world. Once the mother’s hopes are dashed for her introverted daughter’s rise in business, and the disappointment in her son’s career advancement can no longer be hidden, she turns her attention to obtaining a husband for her glass-creature loving daughter.
The play itself is high quality. The scenery transports you back to a Depression-era living room fully stocked with a Victrola and the tiny glass animals that shelter the shy Laura. These creatures represent the role she has in the world – fragile. The beau invited for dinner inadvertently shatters two things – Laura’s heart and her favorite glass ornament. “Now, he’s just like all the other horses,” says Laura after the creature falls and breaks, trying to calm the gentleman caller’s guilt.
Even I wanted to escape the shrieking of the mother and join the Merchant Marines with the son. The mother’s never-ending need to perfect her children whilst reliving her plantation years is gut-wrenching albeit entertaining. But Lauren Noll, the actress playing Laura, pulls this play together. From the tender moment between her and her drunken brother to the unassuming way she carries out the shrill tasks of the mother, Laura is the key. The scenes without her were lacking.
Having only three main characters and minimal props put a great deal of pressure on the actors. Actors, as well as their characters in the play, seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Despite some light word play, including mastication, a funny moment with breast augmentation, and the addition of jonquils – whatever those are – the play was, in a word from the people behind me, depressing. In another word…accurate. Maybe too much so.
An autobiographical snapshot of his early life, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie runs Jan. 18 through Feb. 5 at the Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Theatre. Tickets are free with your OneCard and run from $10 to $24 without. The cast includes: John Graham (Tom, the son), Lauren Noll (Laura, the daughter), Jayne Luke (the mother), and Matt Whittaker (the “gentleman caller”).
There are other events surrounding Tennessee Williams going on around the college. Check out www.slcc.edu for more details.