‘Glass Menagerie’ shines and illuminates
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.
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.”