Unfulfilled dreams, heartache, desolation and a blackout were experienced in Chris Abraham’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, metaphorically and, well, quite literally.
The latter was a result of two consecutive power failures which caused a delay in the scheduled 8:30 p.m. performance. However, once the electricity was restored and our abhorrence for the hydro system stifled for the time being, we were treated to an over two-hour performance that not only did Williams’ timeless play justice but enticed the audience to give the performers a standing ovation lasting several minutes.
The Glass Menagerie tells the story of the Wingfield family; Amanda (played by Rosemary Dunsmore), the loving but smothering mother, Tom (played by Damien Atkins), the reluctant breadwinner of the family who’s forced to support them after their father abandons them, and Laura (played by Michelle Monteith), a shy and slightly handicapped girl whose inferiority complex hinders her from making friends and finding “gentlemen callers” knocking at her door. The only other character aside from the Wingfields is Jim O’Connor (played by Seann Gallagher), a young man whom Amanda and Tom attempt to set Laura up with only for Laura to discover at the end of their quasi-romantic interlude, that he is engaged to another woman.
The Glass Menagerie was written in 1944 by Tennessee Williams and was first produced in Chicago during the 1944-1945 theatre season where it opened to great acclaim. It then moved to Broadway where it became an overnight success. Needless to say, if a play written in the mid-forties is still being produced today, the material contains themes that are obviously worth exploring, characters that are worth investing our emotion in and a story that is engaging and thought provoking.
The main theme of the play seems to be that while hopes and dreams are worth having, they are, after all, hopes and dreams, and when reality inevitably creeps in, these illusions we have created for ourselves often are shattered.
Amanda wants nothing more than her son and daughter to have happiness and success, which neither child obtains in the end. Tom wants nothing more than to experience the very same adventures he sees in the movies he watches every night, but with the responsibility that comes with supporting his mother and sister, that can never be. Laura is in love with Jim and wants nothing more than her affection to be mutual, which it sadly is not.
There is also a recurring theme of escapism and how it is used to hide from the reality that attempts to crush one’s dreams. Amanda runs a newsletter to escape from the fact that her children are not living the kinds of lives she wishes them to live. Tom spends his time either drinking or watching movies to distract himself from the banality of his everyday existence. Laura has her glass menagerie, a collection of glass figures she lovingly cares for and who in her mind love her back.
All of these subtleties and nuances are brought to life by four marvelous performances. The performance that really stands out is Dunsmore’s brilliant portrayal of Amanda. Dunsmore really brings the desperation Amanda has for her children’s well-being in life, and nearly stole every scene she was a part of during the first act.
The second act, however, belonged to Gallagher and Monteith, who had an undeniable chemistry with each other and thus their romantic interlude was believable.
The music was performed live by violinist Rick Hyslop, the gorgeous lighting design was done by Luc Prairie and the impeccable set designs were constructed by Guido Tondino and Victoria Zimski.
This adaptation was directed by Chris Abraham, a four season veteran of the Saidye Bronfman Centre Theatre, who did a wonderful job of bringing this classic and heartbreakingly tragic story to life.
The Glass Menagerie runs until Oct. 20 at the Saidye Bronfman Centre, located at 5170 C