Friday & Saturday, April 5th through April 20th at 8 pm
Sunday, April 14th at 3 pm
Gentleman Caller..............................Doug Brandt
Tom Wingfield..................................John Carozza
Laura Wingfield.................................Nicole Jesson
Amanda Wingfield.............................Lynne Moulton
Stage Manager...................................Colleen Hoffman
Scenic Design & Construction...........Rob Rohner
Lighting Design.................................Doug O'Keefe
In the soft light of this Delvena Theatre Company production,
Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie" glows. Warm-blooded performances
radiate the poetry and genius of Williams's writing.
Under Barbara Fulchino's direction, Lynne Moulton's cast recreates a
theatrical gem in the bare-bones space of Salem's Old Town Hall. Like the
beauty the play's characters find in their commonplace lives, it's a
delicate flower in an untended yard -- an unexpected but natural delight.
Tom, the story's narrator and one of its main characters, presents
a tale that is part history, part fancy -- experience viewed through the
filter of memory. As the play opens, Tom, dressed in the wool cap and pea
coat of a merchant seaman, stands lighting a cigarette in the shadows. Like
Rod Serling introducing an episode from "The Twilight Zone," he addresses
the audience directly. This play, he warns, involves a family of characters
whose eyes have failed them, or who have failed their eyes. As the play
unfolds, its characters demonstrate that they are indeed out of touch with
reality, and equally incapable of living up to their individual ideals.
One set serves for the entire play. Props are simple: a Victorian couch, a
manual typewriter, an old Victrola. In the center of the room, on the lower
level, is a round, two-tiered end table displaying the small glass objects
that make up daughter Laura's menagerie. Up one level and to the left is a
dining room table and wooden chairs. No other rooms are visible, just a
hallway area with a coat rack, leading to a door which opens up to a
balcony--presumably a fire escape--from which characters can look up to the
moon, or over to the dance hall across the alley.
Reality isn't kind. The senior Mr. Wingfield has walked out on the family,
leaving it to make do during the Great Depression without his emotional or
financial support. But a photo of father as a handsome youth still adorns
the wall, preserved along with his last communication to his loved ones, a
terse "hello, goodbye" postcard. Although abandoned and suffering classic
symptoms of rejection -- feelings of inadequacy and lack of direction among
them -- the family isn't consumed by anger. Father isn't a low-life, deadbeat
dad, but "a telephone man who fell in love with long distance." The amusing
phrase doesn't conjure a selfish oaf who'd abandon a helpless brood, but a
man with a common human weakness -- an inability to reconcile his dreams with
Although father appears to preside over the dining room table in absentia,
via his portrait, mother calls the shots. Lynne Moulton's Amanda
Wingfield--adorned with pearls and hair pinned in a bun--fights with
stubborn determination to maintain a sense of refinement in impoverished
circumstances. Raised in affluence and courted by a bevy of southern
gentlemen, she lives to recreate the gentility of her youth. But under her
lacy glove lies the iron hand of a southern matriarch.
A controlling mother with a penchant for micromanagement, Amanda is
continually frustrated by attempts to enforce standards that her adult
children won' t -- or can't -- live up to. Screaming "Chew! Chew!" across the
breakfast table, she commands Tom to move his jaws in accordance with her
will: No son of hers will gulp his food. "Resume your seat!" she yells at
Laura, "You are not excused from the table!"
Despite her flaws, Amanda is a resourceful woman. A telemarketing pioneer,
she pitches magazine subscriptions to friends and acquaintances,
sacrificiing pride to pay the rent. The family must muster its forces--build
itself up, she says--if it is to survive in trying times. Battling the demon
inertia and all outward signs of laxity, she exhorts her children to reach
Chastising them with one breath, she makes light of their shortcomings in
another--perhaps to fool herself as much as them. But her deceptions don't
deceive, and sometimes the approach is cruel. "You must keep yourself
pretty for our gentlemen callers," Amanda tells Laura. The girl has never
had callers, but no matter. "They come when they're least expected," Amanda
says. Mother also refuses to acknowledge Laura's pronounced limp. She isn't
crippled, but has a "slight affect."
Nicole Jesson's Laura Wingfield has all the gawky grace of an overgrown
child. Hair parted in the middle and braided, and wearing black lace-up
shoes and ankle socks, Laura is far from the fetching debutante of her
mother's dreams. Uncomfortably awkward in her big-boned body, she appears to
fold into herself, cringing like a puppy dreading the inevitable scolding. A
bundle of neuroses. Again and again she presses a palm against tendons at
the back of her neck -- as if to stem anxiety flowing like blood from a
severed artery -- or vigorously rubs a finger under her nose.
Like her glass treasures, Laura isn't particularly good for anything but
gathering dust. Ostensibly enrolled in business college, she has been
secretly wandering the streets, walking to keep warm in the winter,
frequenting gardens in the spring. Undone by the pressures of learning to
type -- and take speed tests -- she quit the college a few days into the course.
Discovering her daughter's deception, Amanda is appalled.
"I was under the impression you were an adult," she tells the woman she has
While her mother is nourished by dreams of the past, Laura loses herself
in her own vision of beauty, listening to music on the Victrola whenever she
can and tending the creatures in her menagerie. In addition, she cherishes
the memory of a high-school crush, a boy she barely knew but who called her
"blue roses" after she came down with "pleurosis," inadvertently
transforming the sickly young girl into something of rare beauty. Like the
lone unicorn amid her collection of glass horses, the awkward, crippled girl
is made to feel special--not a freak, but a treasure.
Tom, Laura's brother, is a writer frustrated by the demands of an
enervating factory job and his mother's suffocating attentions. But
John Carozza's Woody Allen voice and mannerisms project a wry sense of
humor. With a writer's ability to sit back and observe, Tom -- unlike other
family members -- is able to look at the family situation with some detachment.
Some of the funniest and most powerful scenes in the play occur when mother
and son clash. Amanda clings vociferously to her refined sensibilities and
genteel airs. Tom, the writer, cuts through her euphemisms to tell it like
it is. Given his mother's distaste for anything coarse, it's easy to pull
her leg, feigning an exaggerated lack of civility. The comic dynamic between
the two actors is electric.
Although she demands the best from her son, Amanda fears that he is taking
on his father's vices -- namely, a taste for drink and late-night
carousing -- and doesn't believe him when he claims to frequent midnight
movies. Along with the pressure of being watched (lest any of his father's
frailties grow in him undetected), Tom must live with the sadness and guilt
of knowing that he will ultimately succumb to his own inability to pursue
his dreams in the bosom of his family, leaving them in spite, or because, of
The prospect of hosting a gentleman caller to dinner -- a friend of Tom's from
the factory -- throws the household into a state of frenetic activity. Laura
dresses up for the occasion. With her hair down and a new dress, she looks
pretty for the first time. All's well until moments before the caller's
arrival, when Laura discovers that he is the same "Jim" she remembers from
high school: Jim of the blue roses.
Doug Brandt's Jim is an engaging every-day guy, conspicuously normal in the
Wingfield family setting. All sincerity and positive thinking, Brandt is
Throughout the play, O'Keefe's lighting design guides the audience's focus,
informing their vision as surely as the narrator's words. When Jim and Laura
finally get together, they are bathed in the soft yellow light of a
candelabra. Sitting on the floor in this light, Laura's beauty -- shrinking in
the brightness of day -- is fully revealed, suggesting another truth: That in
the rough core of every human soul lies a facet that will reflect light.
That a human being is not a black hole, but a diamond.