‘Glass Me­nagerie’ shines and il­lu­mi­nates

The Morning Call - - THEATER - By Kathy Lauer-Wil­liams

DeSales Univer­sity’s Act 1 pro­duc­tion of Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ clas­sic play “The Glass Me­nagerie” boasted a strong cast and was achingly melan­choly and fraught with misty mem­o­ries.

The play, which wrapped Sun­day on the Main Stage of the Labuda Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, shone as it il­lu­mi­nated the com­plex­i­ties of Wil­liams’ frag­ile char­ac­ters, all trapped by their mem­o­ries.

Strongly di­rected by Act 1 artis­tic di­rec­tor Den­nis Razze, the en­tire back­ward-look­ing at­mos­phere of “The Glass Me­nagerie” is set up by a grin­ning photo of the “tele­phone man who fell in love with long dis­tance,” the fam­ily’s fa­ther, who de­serted his wife and chil­dren 16 years ear­lier.

Ar­ri­anna Daniels is mem­o­rable as the des­per­ately de­ter­mined, aging South­ern belle and ma­tri­arch Amanda Wing­field — who swings be­tween dis­ap­point­ment with her painfully shy daugh­ter, Laura, and a sin­gle-minded fo­cus to find a fu­ture for her.

Amanda is ob­sessed by re­grets of all the rich men she could have mar­ried, in­stead of the drunken hus­band she did. Daniels man­ages to make Amanda both charm­ing and grat­ing as she holds court over an ill-ad­vised din­ner, at which she hopes to find a mate for her daugh­ter.

Court­ney Bul­ger was painfully ten­ta­tive as Amanda’s phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally dis­abled daugh­ter, who pal­pa­bly with­draws from ev­ery re­la­tion­ship in her life — ex­cept for her col­lec­tion of glass an­i­mals that she treats as friends.

Matthew Smal­done had a barely re­strained in­ten­sity as Amanda’s son, Tom, who also acts as nar­ra­tor. Tom be­grudg­ingly sup­ports his fam­ily by work­ing at a shoe fac­tory, a job he de­spises and dreams of es­cap­ing.

Through­out the play, he haunts movie the­aters — search­ing for way out. But he is all too aware that seek­ing hap­pi­ness means aban­don­ing his mother and sis­ter, like his fa­ther be­fore.

When Tom brings a co-worker home as a po­ten­tial suitor for Laura, it shat­ters the fam­ily’s fa­cade.

Cole­man Shu-Tung Gil­bert was un­der­stat­edly charm­ing as Jim O’Con­nor, who yearns for his high school glory days, while prag­mat­i­cally plan­ning for the fu­ture that isn’t quite what he planned.

His mix of re­al­ism and poignant aware­ness of Laura’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity was on dis­play when he grabbed her and kissed her in heart-break­ing fash­ion.

Cos­tume de­signer Amy Best did a great job, par­tic­u­larly by out­fit­ting Amanda in a faded party dress that per­fectly rep­re­sents her mem­o­ries of dis­tant times that no longer fit her cur­rent life.

Scenic de­signer Will Neuert cre­ated a moody set that seemed as much pri­son as home.

The­ater writer Kathy Lauer-Wil­liams is a con­trib­u­tor to The Morn­ing Call.

LEE A. BUTZ/CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Tom Wing­field (Matthew Smal­done, right) at­tempts to talk his mother, Amanda, (Ar­ri­anna Daniels, left) out of a crazy idea to gar­ner a hus­band for her painfully shy and frag­ile daugh­ter Laura in Act 1 DeSales Univer­sity’s 50th sea­son opener, Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ “The Glass Me­nagerie.”

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