HT Preview: The Glass Menagerie
Depression-era Story of “Glass Menagerie” Still Resonates Today
By Joel Pierson H-T columnist
March 17, 2019
Each season, Cardinal Stage tries to present at least one classic American play. This season, it’s Tennessee Williams’ evergreen, “The Glass Menagerie.”
The play debuted all the way back in 1944, and it was the one that elevated the playwright to national acclaim. It began as a short story and a screenplay before taking its best-known form. Our narrator and avatar for this play is Tom, who tells us about his mother, Amanda, and his sister, Laura. He’s telling the tale from memory. At the time things were taking place, Tom was in his early 20s, sharing a small apartment in St. Louis with them.
Her debutante days behind her, Amanda takes care of her adult children now, particularly Laura, who’s left with a limp after contracting polio in the past. She suffers now from an almost-crippling insecurity and introversion. Her mother is on a crusade to find a “gentleman caller” for Laura, but Laura is far more interested in taking care of her collection of small glass animals.
Under pressure from Amanda, Tom invites a work buddy named Jim to the apartment for dinner, with the intention of making a match for Laura. To Laura’s surprise, he’s not a stranger to her. What follows is a series of interactions that demonstrate Williams’ masterful command of language and character.
Director Kate Galvin says of the show, “It’s been really fascinating to dive into this play at a deeper level than I have before. The tensions and tenderness in the relationships between members of the Wingfield family make this play truly timeless. Everyone will see a little bit of themselves and their families in these characters. I find that the Depression-era setting resonates for us in the wake of the recent recession. Today there are still a lot of adult children like Tom Wingfield, who are living at home and struggling to bridge the gap between their ambition and their opportunities.”
Galvin added, “This is the piece that put Tennessee Williams in the national spotlight for the first time. It’s a beautiful, poetic and personal play, and we are creating a very intimate production that will really bring the audience into his world. I think it will be equally moving for audience members who are encountering the play for the first time and those who are revisiting this beloved piece.”
The cast features Michael Bayler, Steve Pacek, Courtney Relyea-Spivack and Francesca Sobrer. Sobrer, the now-retired theater teacher from Bloomington High School North, recalled first encountering the script at age 14 on Nantucket, after which she repeatedly had to read it throughout college. “Each time that I read it,” she said, “I learned something new about each character. I would go and see every production of it that I could see.” This month, Sobrer takes on the role of Amanda. If you get the chance, you really should come see her and her co-stars in this moving story.