The Glass Menagerie by the Wild Project
“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”
With these opening lines, the audience is drawn into a dimly lit world of memory, where the truth of arduous family interactions are presented through an eerie dream.
The Wild Project welcomes the Halloween season this year with a disquieting new version of The Glass Menagerie. Ruth Stage presents the Tennessee Williams classic in a chilling, surrealistic and dreamlike world. Directors Austin Pendleton and Peter Bloch, following two critically acclaimed runs of The Wars of the Roses, direct this production which explores the notions of memory and fractured family relationships as Tom (Matt de Rogatis) relives his time in the Wingfield’s St Louis apartment, 1939, with his overbearing mother (Ginger Grace) and mentally fragile sister (Alexandra Rose).
Matt De Rogatis (who also played “Richard III” in The Wars of the Roses), effectively conveys Tom’s repressed torment and frustration under the burden of supporting an unappreciative family, as well as bringing to life Tom’s comedic and poetic sides. Ginger Grace brings to the stage an officious yet whimsical Amanda, who, through an intriguingly soft-spoken voice, becomes increasingly obsessed with her son’s every move, with finding her daughter a “gentleman caller,” and recollecting her past life as a Southern belle. And, in her professional theater debut as Laura, actress Alexandra Rose manages to capture the empathy of the audience with her vivid portrayal of the character’s utter lack of self-confidence. Spencer Scott plays a deceivingly charming Jim O’Conner whom the audience hope, as the long awaited gentleman caller, will save the Wingfield’s from their disastrous downwards spiral.
Set designer Jessie Bonaventure (assistant set designer on Hadestown) presents the Wingfield house through the lens of a nightmare, with grey furniture reminiscent of a haunted house, juxtaposed to Laura’s delicate collection of glass animals -- ever-present on stage. The element of the surreal and nightmare is further incorporated by the enormous black and white photo of the fifth character in the play, Tom and Laura’s father and Amanda’s husband, “a telephone man who fell in love with long distance” whose image grins almost grotesquely throughout. His absence is ominously ingrained in the minds of the audience just as it is in the characters. Steven Wolf creates the complementary dim lighting throughout and an entrancing candlelight scene between Laura and Jim in which the shadows of dread pervade the hints of romance.
Sean Haggerty writes the score taking inspiration from The Exorcist soundtrack to create a few moments of chilling suspense in collaboration with Jesse Meckl designing the sound.
There were moments when it seemed that opportunities to immerse more in the genre of horror and suspense were missed, when eeriness would build but then the path back towards naturalism was too abruptly taken. Nevertheless, the Wild Project brings a compelling take on the classic production whilst staying true to the perceptions of Williams, and manages to explore how surrealism and the nightmare form relate to how we may recreate and relive painful memories in our minds.
Tickets for this limited engagement run up to October 20th are available at Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-300 or at www.theglassmenagerieplay.com