> Take a classic Tennessee Williams play, add creative and inventive touches to it to capture the hearts of current day audiences and you have the ingredients for "The Glass Menagerie" at Trinity Rep. It was his first successful play and is more autobiographical than some of his other works. Williams whose first name is Thomas is Tom, his mother is Amanda and his sickly and supposedly mentally ill sister, Rose is Laura. The show is introduced to the audience by Tom as a memory play, based on his recollections of his mother and sister. Amanda is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility who lives in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment. Her husband left the family 16 years ago and Amanda remains stuck in the past and is obsessed with finding a suitor for Laura. Tom works in a warehouse, doing his best to support them but chafes under the boredom and banality of life. Tom is driven to distraction by his mother's constant nagging and seeks escape in cheap movies, alcohol and illicit activities which alludes to Williams homosexuality. After dropping out of business school, Laura spends most of her time with her glass animal collection which is as delicate and fragile as she is. Tom eventually brings his fellow worker, Jim home to meet Laura at his mother's insistence. Laura realizes that Jim is the boy she loved in high school and has thought of ever since. Jim builds Laura up by explaining about her inferiority complex and needs to build up her confidence. In the candlelit scene Jim kisses Laura only to have reality intrude on them. The world of illusion Amanda and Laura have built around them crumbles and Tom leaves, too never to return. However Tom still remembers Laura and shows his regret at leaving his sister behind. One of Tom's last lines resonates with the audience "Blow out your candles, Laura" and she stops the music bringing the show to its poignant and emotion packed conclusion. Director Brian Mertes directs this show wonderfully with his creative blocking approach to the show. The cast members give a touching rendition of this classic show, leaving you shedding a tear or two along the way.
Although the show is heartbreaking there are many moments of humor sprinkled through it. The poignancy and power of this piece is enhanced by Philip Roebuck's original music during it. He wrote a very funny song for the show called "Let's All Go to the Movies" which the cast sings and plays kazoos to it. Philip plays "The Star Spangled Banner" to open the show with Brian McEleney singing certain sections of it. He portrays Tom and enters in his tee shirt, briefs and a robe. Brian Mertes casts an older actor in this role. Brian as Tom looks back at his youthful days becoming the character as well as expressing regret as the older man reflecting on what might have been in his relationship with his sister as well as enjoying his hidden gay inclinations. He has to relive his life again. Brian enters in the second act putting on drag makeup like Tennessee Williams used to do as a tribute to his sister. His powerful scenes include his caring and concern for Laura and his arguments with Amanda. The final speech will leave you breathless at its powerful impact. Anne Scurria is magnificent as Amanda as if the role was written for her. She stands on a chair while describing her 17 suitors in the Blue Mountains and kneels on the floor to beg Tom to find a suitor for Laura. She plays the overbearing mother to the hilt. Amanda dreams of the days gone by in the Blue Mountains when she was pursued by seventeen suitors. Anne captures the woman's larger than life persona as she runs the lives of her children. She shines whether she is berating Laura for dropping out of business school or when she chastises Tom for daydreaming and staying out till all hours of the night carousing like his father. She is marvelous as she cries up a storm at the plight she and Laura are left in. Anne also excels at playing the giddy Southern belle trying to entice the gentleman caller for her daughter.
Pretty Mia Ellis plays the fragile, crippled Laura excellently. She displays great depth in this role as she cringes and hides from the real world into her world of glass figurines. Like that imaginary world, her world crumbles around her at her attempt to entertain this man who is engaged to another girl. Mia becomes this tragic wallflower as Laura, destined to remain in the dumpy St. Louis apartment with her mother. The breaking of the horn on the unicorn symbolizes Rose's lobotomy. Laura gives Jim the unicorn symbolizing her undying love for a man she will never have. Dennis Kozee as Jim O'Connor is terrific onstage as he brings a kinetic energy to the role. Jim attempts to have Laura look at the positive aspects of life as he discusses his public speaking class with her. Dennis delivers a tender interpretation of Jim and brings life to the stale atmosphere of this cramped apartment. His character brings added dimension to the show. This play brings back many happy memories, having directed it back in 1986. So for an exciting new look at a powerful American classic, be sure to catch "The Glass Menagerie" at Trinity Rep where you will enjoy the inventive blocking with special Trinity style touches to it.