When you’ve forgotten that a world exists outside of the one created by the play, you know you’ve seen a good play. The Glass Menagerie, as presented by the Players’ Theatre of McGill University, is one such play.
Executed brilliantly by the cast of four—Andrew Cameron, Ingrid Rudié, Arlen Aguayo Stewart and James Kelly—Tennessee Williams’ classic play left the audience in awe.
First premiering in 1944, The Glass Menagerie is narrated by Tom Wingfield, a young man who dreams of being a writer but is tied to his gregarious southern mother and painfully shy sister. He supports his family by working in a shoe factory, a job he hates. He is constantly hounded by his mother, Amanda, and longs to do as his father did and get as far away as possible.
At the insistence of his mother, Tom invites a colleague from the factory over as a potential suitor for his sister Laura, who has failed at procuring any suitors for herself or making any headway towards a career of her own.
The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, so everything is tinged with the bias of Tom’s personal memory, a theme that was well articulated in Colleen Stanton’s lighting design.
The set and costuming articulated the time period and character personalities appropriately, as well as referencing the idea that what we were seeing was conjured from someone’s memory. Matthew Banks’ set design was well suited to the space and vantage points of the audience seated in an L-shape around the stage’s perimeter.
Ingrid Rudié as Amanda Wingfield played matronly, southern and overbearing to perfection. She managed to imply that her character’s personality eclipsed those of her son and daughter, without eclipsing the actors themselves. The character of Laura Wingfield is a difficult one to represent. She has such severe anxiety that she can barely function, as well as having a slightly crippled leg. As an actor, one must appear small and quiet, without disappearing, so it speaks to Arlen Aguayo Stewart’s skill that Laura was the most memorable character in the production. Stewart’s body language spoke volumes and her emotional execution was flawless.
James Kelly, who appeared as Jim O’Connor only in the final scene, was the perfect embodiment of the egotistical former high school star that defines the character of Jim. From the moment Kelly stepped onstage he radiated smugness and even when he had no lines he was completely present in his character and in the moment.
Tom Wingfield is played by Andrew Cameron, and as both the narrator and actor in the play, he has the largest role and longest monologues to perform. Cameron excelled at playing the dynamics of a beleaguered son and caring brother, but he sometimes lost the audience during his lengthy monologues. As narrator, the audience relied on Tom to forward the play, but at times it felt as though Cameron was rushing to get through and his enunciation wasn’t always as crisp as could be desired.
Director Rowan Spencer should be commended on having taken such a well-known play with comparatively young actors and turning out a magnificent piece of theatre. The use of the stage was precise and appropriate and scene changes were well executed. If there was one flaw it would be that the glass menagerie prop was not as prominently featured as its role in the play warranted it to be. However, if you see one play this winter, this is the one it should be.
The Glass Menagerie runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at 3480 McTavish. For more information visit playerstheatre.ca