Samantha Harper spends an evening at The Byre reviewing a Mermaids production of Tennessee Williams’ much-loved classic, The Glass Menagerie.
As an avid theatre goer, it is unusual for me to see a show without knowing anything about it, but this was the case when I went to see The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams in The Byre. The lights came up on a beautifully detailed set. The whole play takes place in one room, a classic strategy of Williams’ which lends itself to productions that have less money and time. However, if you only have one place for the whole story to play out in, that set needs to be great. The attention paid to the period style was evident, and it added a lot to a story that can seem quite dated. The small size of the space created a box-in feeling perfect for the position the Wingfield family find themselves in.
The Glass Menagerie is a play dealing with the trials of a small family: Amanda (Molly Williams), a single mother dealing with an absent husband, Tom (Morgan Corby), a young man in search of adventure, and Laura (Eleanor Burke), a shy ‘crippled’ girl who has never had a suitor. The play begins with a monologue from Tom, leading into the narrative; his character often steps outside of the narrative to remark on certain things. Overall, Corby did a good job of emphasising the contrast between Tom’s personality as narrator and the personality he shared with his family. However, while his performance carried the plot along, I felt Corby neglected Tom’s relationship with his sister, a relationship that could have brought the play to a higher emotional pitch and tied up loose ends. Without that profound love, his final monologue lost something.
As Amanda, Williams well-embodied the ‘southern hospitality’ that drives the plot. It was unfortunate that a poor costume choice hindered her performance in Act Two. Though Amanda is supposed to be overdressed, the choice of a floor length, strapless gown was not the right one. Williams seemed uncomfortable in the gown and its length tripped her up a couple times, nearly causing some serious wardrobe malfunctions. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a pity she couldn’t do her best because of it.
Though Burke gave a decent performance, hers was probably the weakest link in the show. There is so much potential in her character, and I was prepared to have a full-on meltdown the theatre, but it never came. I wanted more depth, more trauma, more something. Laura is meant to be consumed by her little glass animal figurines, that is her ‘glass menagerie’. However, despite being the play’s namesake, I felt like not much attention was paid to the figurines in the blocking or acting. Maybe it was the way certain lines were delivered or the fact that the figures were hidden in the back of the set in a small plastic tub that seemed very out of place, but I felt like a huge symbolic part of the story was gone.
Xavier Atkins, portraying Laura’s opposite and high school crush, Jim O’Connor, carried his part brilliantly. Atkins embodied his character with the same confidence his character preaches about; his candour and approachability nicely contrasted with Laura’s reticent nature. Their chemistry was beautifully done.
My biggest complaint about this production of The Glass Menagerie was simply the lack of attention to detail. The paper cranes hanging from the ceiling in the second act cast weird shadows across actors’ faces. The lighting was standard and didn’t live up to the potential that the Byre light system promises. But my ability to nit-pick the details shows that, overall, the cast and crew of The Glass Menagerie did a pretty good job.