EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
The following are excerpts from the September 11, 2013 DC Theatre Scene Review of The Glass Menagerie by Jayne Blanchard
Just when you think you don’t have it in you to see a classic play for the bazillionth time and you clump to your seat thinking that it is too dang nice out to sit in the dark for nearly three hours and that the Orioles really need your support, something happens.
And so we succumb to the world of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, a world reinvented with vigor and grace in director Vincent M. Lancisi’s superbly balanced, visually and emotionally intoxicating production currently at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre.
Most people are familiar with this 1944 drama and its semi-autobiographical story of the Wingfield family–the frustrated and henpecked son Tom (Clinton Brandhagen) stuck in a dead-end job at a shoe factory, his domineering mother Amanda (Deborah Hazlett), and his dreamy, painfully shy sister Laura (Sophie Hinderberger). In this memory play, Tom, a stand-in for the playwright, has long flown the coop for a restless life as a merchant marine and writer, and recollects the events leading up to him abandoning his family much the same way his own father did many years ago.
Shifting between the soft focus of memory and the harsh light of reality, poetic flights of fancy and ugly fights, The Glass Menagerie depicts the lives of people living on the unraveled edges of society.
In most productions of Glass Menagerie, Tom is the impetus for change and the Gentleman Caller delivers the glancing blow of reality. Certainly, Mr. Schleigh memorably plays Jim as a hearty and can-do auger of the optimistic future, as seen in his exchanges with all three Wingfields. But here it is much more subtle–he is courtly and flirtatious with Amanda—who teeters on the verge of hysteria in her attempts at hospitality– and a sympathetic sounding board for Tom.
Yet in Lancisi’s delicate revision, your heart goes out to the whole family, especially Miss Hazlett’s Amanda, who exudes vivacity and the genteel bustle of a true Southern lady. The way she frets and fusses over her children does not seem demented, just the pure desperation of a mother hemmed in by circumstances she never dreamed at Blue Mountain she would have to endure. Her recollections of her former life are not the natterings of a nutcase, but are brought to life so vividly and with such immediacy by Miss Hazlett you almost can reach out and touch them right along with Amanda.You even feel for the long gone father, who may have departed years ago but still presides over the family, trapped within the frame of his portrait hanging on the dining room wall.
Because the pull of this family’s sorrow is so strong that you know that even though Tom goes on to freely roam in the world, his heart still dwells in that downtrodden back alley apartment, firmly in the grasp of his mother’s faded glory and especially in the trembling fingers of his sister Laura–lost in a world where time is but a faint whisper as she abandons herself to the sight of her glass animals glowing in the candlelight. “Blow out the candles, Laura” Tom says softly, both a gentle plea and a cry to heaven. “Blow out the candles.”