Silver Spring Stage The Glass MenagerieBy Courtney Ferguson • Sep 21st, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Silver Spring Stage
Silver Spring Stage, Silver Spring, MD
Through October 4th
$20/$18 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed September 19th, 2009
Performed at Silver Spring Stage, The Glass Menagerie is one of Tennessee Williams most well known plays. The play is considered to be a memory play, as the main character Tom Wingfield recalls the life he lived in a St. Louis apartment with his mother Amanda and sister Laura. After the father’s departure 16 years ago, the Wingfields were left to fend for themselves. Any mention of Mr. Wingfield was either met with disgust by Amanda or admiration by Tom who longs to escape the Wingfield home. His picture hangs in the house as a reminder. The Wingfield home is full of nostalgia and unspoken pain. Amanda is constantly recollecting the past and strives to mold her children into normal functioning citizens. She nitpicks at Tom and treats him like a child. Her hope for Laura is slim, as Laura has an extreme social phobia, as well as one leg that is shorter than the other, causing her to limp when she walks. Tom longs for adventure, and to escape the burdens of his mother and sister. He is held back by guilt, until one day he realizes he just cannot take it anymore.
Leah Mazade portrayed Amanda Wingfield as desperate and unwilling to let go of her past. Her recollections of the past were a frantic attempt to escape the present, and remind everyone of how elegant she used to be as a Southern belle. Comical at times, her talks of Southern sophistication and her “gentleman callers,” were contradicted by her current economic situation that was nothing more than plain. Amanda was constantly in a world of her own, never quite aware of the present. I appreciated this aspect of Mazade’s performance, she made it known that she was lost in this fantasy world, often times rambling when she spoke and dramatically acting out.
Tom (David Dieudonne) portrayed honesty and true human emotion, as a man who wants to spread his wings and fly but is like a bird trapped inside a cage. His sentiments were understandable. I almost felt sorry for him, because of the acute sense of guilt he held within himself for leaving the Wingfield home.
Laura had a collection of figurines that Amanda called her glass menagerie. Whenever Laura played with her figures, there was a sense of escape and acclamation for herself. She prided herself in being different, focusing on her figurines intricacies and the way the light shined through them. It was the one thing she could connect to. Laura, played by Allison S. Galen, was very soft spoken and quiet. Like Tom she was plagued with the guilt and emotion that she was never allowed to show. She harbored the guilt of being a burden to the family and possibly a disappointment to herself. Her actions were subtle, but it was clear what she was trying to say.
Later in the play, Amanda asks Tom to bring home a boy from work for Laura. Whether he knew it or not, Jim was Laura’s first gentleman caller. Skylar Sanders was very charismatic as Jim; it was no wonder why everyone in the Wingfield household gravitated towards him, including the audience. When Sanders entered the stage, there was a shift in the atmosphere; his presence marked a turning point in the show. Sanders was very aware of his character’s purpose, and he accurately reflected the character’s spirit. His kindness and affection toward Laura was unlike any emotion she had ever experienced. For just a few moments Jim made Laura feel special, and provided a sense of hope.
The set was thoughtfully put together by set designer Eric Henry and scenic designer Anna Britton. The Wingfield home looked as if it had been lived in, but overtime nothing had been done to improve its appearance. The black and white images on the walls were haunting; they reflected a sense of sadness and history. The only thing that was bothersome as an audience member sitting at the top, was that it was difficult at times to see Laura playing with her glass figurines at the very bottom of the stage. Audience members do not want to miss this, considering the importance of the glass menagerie to Laura and to the play overall.
This play was presented as a memory of Tom’s, as he often times spoke to the audience in the present, and acted as a character in his past memory. At times there was not always a definite distinction between one and the other. Aside from being told by Tom that it was a memory, there was never a true sense that I saw seeing something from the past. As an audience member, I was looking to feel that same sense of nostalgia as Tom, but did not quite get it. The symbolism in the play can be difficult to ascertain, but the poetry of this piece is enthralling.
Where does one begin when trying to express the life and times on Williams and this immortal play? Perhaps to playwright says it best, “The thing that I’ve always pushed in my writing, that needed to be said over and over, is that human relations are terrifying ambiguous. If you write a character that isn’t ambiguous, you are writing a false character, not a true one.” The character of Tom Wingfield, in his opening speech, makes a direct attack on the inadequacies of realism and thus Williams legitimately stops the audience from seeing the play as realistic “slice of life.”
Williams believed a work of art comes closer to the truth of reality when it does not pretend to be what it is not, but rather declares itself to be what it is. The world of plays, and The Glass Menagerie in particular, is not bound by time and place. It is a “Memory Play,” Tom’s memory as he remembers it. Williams makes is quite clear the he believes that poetic truth can best be depicted through a transformation that escapes the appearance of reality. Despite his aesthetic stance, he is enough in the tradition of the American Theatre to ask his characters to move and speak realistically.
Williams said, “Reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent, in essence only though transformation, through changing into other forms than those which were merely present in appearance.” Williams does not see his function as an artist simply in terms of putting life on stage. He follows Aristotle’s view that poetry (art) is something more philosophical and more worthy or serious attention than history; for while poetry is concerned with universal truths, history treats only particular facts. Williams breaks the illusion of reality; an accurate description of “a mother” is trivial for Williams who has claimed that his concern as a dramatist was to master the “…neccessary trick of rising above the singular to the plural concern, from personal to general import.
By arresting time through memory, Williams has given The Glass Menagerie a feeling of depth and significance. As he himself stated, “It is the continual rush of time, so violent that it appears to be screaming, that deprives our actual lives of so much dignity and meaning…If the world of the play did not offer us this occasion to view its characters under the special condition of a world without time , then, indeed, the characters and occurrences of drama would become equally pointless, equally trivial, as corresponding meetings and happenings in life.” By arresting time, embodying a single moment of the past, the present, and the future, by making this frozen moment one of tremendous intensity permitting an insight otherwise impossible, Williams has made The Glass Menagerie a lyric drama.
The Glass Menagerie is known for its use of innovation stage technique, such as, music, projections, symbols, narrations and of course, memory. Williams titled this new form “plastic theatre.” Its influence come from the German expressionist school which freely used a narrator, and the “play within a play” techniques, thus giving the text an interior life, a new freedom and poetic voice. Williams said, “When a play employs unconventional techniques, it is not, or certainly shouldn’t be, trying to escape its responsibility of dealing with reality, or interrupting experience, but is actually, or should be, attempting to find a closer approach, a more penetrating and vivid expression of things as they are.
The Glass Menagerie started out as a short story, “Portrait of a Girl in Glass.” The first draft of this story as a play called The Gentleman Caller. In time it came to be known as The Glass Menagerie and was first staged in Chicago, where it was warmly received. It moved to Broadway in 1945, starring Laurette Taylor as Amanda, and became an immediate success.
It is an autobiographical play which Williams admitted freely. He said, “All work is autobiographical if it’s serious.” The Glass Menagerie is his inner history, transported into another time and place. Born in Mississippi in 1911, Williams spent a troubled adolescence growing up in a tenement apartment in St. Louis. He lived with his mother Edwinna, a Southern Belle, and his sister, Rose, who would later be hospitalized for schizophrenia. His father, Cornelius Coffin, worked for a shoe company and would eventually leave the family. He was a delicate, sickly child, with few friends. By the age of sixteen, he knew he wanted to write. Until The Glass Menagerie reached Broadway, Williams held a number of odd jobs, such as, feather picker, waiter, magazine salesman and show salesman. With the production of The Glass Menagerie , Williams became a nationally acclaimed playwright. He said, “After the success of Menagerie , I felt a great depression, probably because I never believed that anything would continue…I had spent so much of my energy on the climb to success, that when I made it…I felt almost no satisfaction.”
With the writing of The Glass Menagerie, Williams hoped to exorcise his deepest pain; his sister Rose. The Glass Menagerie is a requiem to his sister, the magnificence of human nature-its endurance and valor-and unhappy lives. When speaking of The Glass Menagerie , Tennessee Williams said, “I may not have any more nice things to say. I must have known unconsciously that I would never write that kind of tender play again.”
Laurie T. Freed, Director
- Tom Wingfield: David Dieudonné
- Amanda Wingfield : Leah Mazade
- Laura Wingfield: Allsion S. Galen
- Jim O’Connor: Skylar Sanders
- Producer: Jerry Schuchman
- Director: Laurie T. Freed
- Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Nancy Enyon Lark
- Technical Director: Don Slater
- Set Designer: Eric Henry
- Master Carpenter: Eric Henry
- Assisted by: Jerry Schuchman
- Scenic Design: Anna Britton
- Costume Designer: Sandy Eggleston
- Lighting Designer: Peter Caress
- Sound Designer and Original Music: Kenny Neal
- Properties: Margie Henry
- Set Dressing: Joan Roseboom
- Projections: Clare Palace
- Makeup and Hair: The Cast
- Running Crew: Gigi Felix, Rachel Kepnes, Joanna McKee
- Photographer: McCall Noelle Doyle
- Program: Leta Hall
- Program Cover Design: Craig Allen Mummey
- Subscription Brochure: Craig Allen Mummey
- Artistic Liaison: Carol Leahy
- Hospitality Coordinator: Laurie T. Freed
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Courtney Ferguson is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.