By Diana Saenger
Let’s ReviewBe it director or actor, anyone who takes on a Tennessee Williams’ play faces an enormous challenge. How do you make something fresh that’s played so many times over the years? And how do you tackle words that leap off the page but often without a direction unless an actor can proficiently steer the course?
The Cygnet Theater faced these obstacles with its production of “The Glass Menagerie” running through Nov.13. With an acclaimed playwright, outstanding performances, and some humor, the characters in “The Glass Menagerie” area able tell a gripping story.
The curtain opens in the 1960s as Tom Wingfield (Francis Gercke) sits at his desk and typewriter and reads snippets of William’s witty words to the audience. “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”
Tom explains that he is the narrator of the play, but also a character in it and that the other characters are his mother Amanda (Rosina Reynolds), his sister Laura (Amanda Sitton) and Jim (Brian Mackey) a gentleman caller to his sister. About his missing father he explains, “He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distance.”
The story revolves around Laura and a physical disability that has left her shy and practically a shut-in. She’s retreated to an imaginary world of small glass figurines that seem to console and inspire her. But each character has weighted shadows almost as complicated.
Amanda Wingfield is hopelessly trapped in her past, frantic that Laura has not found a mate and that son Tom seems clueless as well.
Tom is worried about his sister, but not so much about his mother, whom he rails against. He disappears from the house for hours every night.
Apparently Amanda has babbled on so consistently over the years that her children tune her out. Tom so much so that he wants to flee, but feels compelled to stay to help his sister.
Despite the deep-seated anger towards his nagging mother, Tom appeases her and invites a co-worker to come for dinner. Amanda is ecstatic, dragging out a dress fit for a ball, making sure the kitchen shines and that Laura is appealingly pretty.
Laura is slow to warm to Jim but when she tells him they were acquainted in high school, he recalls those memories and warms up to her. Out comes a true confession that sets everything on a different course than expected. While the play itself is not jump-out-of-your-seat exciting, these four performers expose their characters compellingly.
The exceptional Reynolds (“Arcadia,” “Love in American Times,” “Steel Magnolias”) is solid in revealing the years of disappointment that have resulted in her giddy delight at the simplest thing one moment and outrage at an injustice another.
The always-versatile Gercke (“Proof,” “Love Song,” “Three Sister”) wore Tom’s every heartfelt emotion on his face throughout the play. His torment easily became forefront in steering William’s tale.
Sitton does well as the awkward young girl with no control over her future, and when Jim comes for dinner, Sitton brings Laura perfectly to life. With hope for her dreams to come true and every exciting moment with her suitor, Sitton sucks up the energy Jim creates in the room as if she is Laura.
Brian Mackey’s (“The History Boys,” “Storytelling on the Green”) Jim is patient, kind and joyous with Laura as he tries to bring her out of her shell. Mackey makes the bud of “The Glass Menagerie” bloom.
If you go
What:‘The Glass Menagerie’
When:7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays; 3 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays to Nov. 13
Where:Cygnet Theatre Company, Old Town Stage, 4040 Twiggs St.
Box Office:(619) 337-1525