Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

The Glass Menagerie
A Public Fit
Review by Mary LaFrance


Joan Mullaney and Rebecca Reyes
Photo by Richard Brusky
From the moment you enter A Public Fit's performance space, you know that this production of The Glass Menagerie will be exactly as the narrator describes: a memory play. The sparse furniture on stage is draped in ghostly white, and a misty haze floats in the air. The lights go black, then slowly illuminate a lone figure on the fire escape—Tom Wingfield, the merchant seaman who, despite time and distance, cannot escape the memories of those he left behind.

Those, of course, would be his mother Amanda and his sister Laura, both modeled after Tennessee Williams' own mother and sister. All three share a tiny apartment in St. Louis during the Great Depression. A faded southern belle who married a charming ne'er-do-well, Amanda fell on desperate times after her husband abandoned her with two young children. Older sister Laura is mildly disabled and painfully shy, preferring the company of glass animals to people. To keep the family afloat, Tom works a menial warehouse job that he despises while writing poetry and dreaming of a better life. Caving to his mother's unrelenting pressure, Tom agrees to invite co-worker Jim O'Connor home to dinner. Amanda envisions that this "gentleman caller" will marry Laura and secure her future.

Considered to be one of Tennessee Williams' greatest works, The Glass Menagerie will be familiar to many playgoers. But even if you've seen the play before, this fresh production, directed by Ann-Marie Pereth and Joseph D. Kucan, makes the case for seeing it again. Of all American playwrights, Williams may come the closest to rivaling Shakespeare in the beauty of his language and the distinctiveness of his larger-than-life characters. And, like Shakespeare's canon, his works lend themselves readily to new stagings and new interpretations.

A Public Fit's staging emphasizes the dream-like aspects of Tom's memory. Joshua Wroblewski's lighting design is magical, from the gaudy, beckoning lights of the dance hall across the street to the ironic glow of the absentee father's portrait to the whimsical projections of blue roses. Lighting plays a crucial role throughout this production. When the Wingfields' electricity goes out during dinner (for reasons that we know, but Amanda and Laura do not), most productions simply suggest this by dimming the lights while keeping the actors illuminated. Pereth and Kucan, however, give us a full blackout. For several moments, the characters are completely in the dark until Jim strikes a match to light a candle. This device brings home the uncertain future that looms ahead for Amanda and Laura.

A Public Fit's production is well paced and features a strong cast. Marcus Weiss gives a compelling performance as Tom, who anchors the play as both character and narrator. As the flighty chatterbox Amanda, Joan Mullaney conveys the character's superficial geniality as well as her profoundly wounded soul. Rebecca Reyes is appealing and waiflike as Laura; she makes it easy to believe that Tom will forever be haunted by her memory.

In the most memorable performance of the evening, Andrew Calvert knocks it out of the park as Jim O'Conner. He crackles with energy, as is appropriate for the Gentleman Caller who is meant to be the answer to Amanda's prayers. Although many fine actors have excelled in this role, Calvert makes it his own. In their extended scene together, Calvert and Reyes have terrific chemistry.

Most of A Public Fit's productions are sold out by their final weekends, and with good reason. This one will be no exception. Grab a ticket and experience some theatre magic before this one, too, melts into thin air.

The Glass Menagerie, through March 11, 2018, at The Usual Place, 100 S. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas NV. Performances Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Stay after the show for "The Buzzz," a discussion with the cast and creative team. For tickets ($30 general admission, $25 seniors and students), go to www.apublicfit.org.

Cast:
Tom Wingfield: Marcus Weiss
Amanda Wingfield: Joan Mullaney
Laura Wingfield: Rebecca Reyes
Jim O'Connor: Andrew Calvert

Additional Creative:
Scenic design by Eric A. Koger; costume design by Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova; sound design by Tim Sage; music composed by Jon-Erik DeGuzman.


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