PRESS RELEASE *PRESS RELEASE *PRESS RELEASE*
The Dramatic Society of East London Presents:
PRODUCTION: The Glass Menagerie
PLAYWRIGHT: Tennessee Williams
VENUE: Alexander Playhouse, Derwent Ave, Cambridge
DATES: 18, 19 and 20 July 2013
TIMES: Nightly at 19:00
BOOKINGS: Lee Gold Music
Phone: 043 7351586
Directed by: Pieter Taljaard
Cast: Cameron McEwan, Linda Smith, Maxine Hobbs, Marcel Corson
A real treat is in store for East London theatre goers this winter when The Dramatic Society of East London presents the riveting and timeless drama of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Awarded Best Play by the New York Critics’ Circle and acclaimed as Williams’ first Broadway success, this emotionally charged story of hope shines a searching light of beauty on family relationships and dreams and will enchant you and move you to tears.
The story concerns asiring young poet Tom Wingfield (Cameron McEwan) who reluctantly works in a shoe warehouse to support his overbearing, faded-Southern-belle mother, Amanda (Linda Smith) and desperately shy sister, Laura (Maxine Hobbs). Neither has any chance of fulfilling their mother’s American dream of success. Laura is a lame, pathologically shy stay-at-home; Tom has his father’s wandering ways and allergy to confinement. Pushed by his mother, Tom finds Laura a gentleman caller (Marcel Corson) to try and coax her from her fragile private world.
Pieter Taljaard (Othello, Hairspray, Roses and Rain) directs a powerhouse cast in this re-imagining of the classic broadway hit. “The play is universal and can speak to everyone who has dreamed of a future beyond their grasp but still holds on the hope”, says Taljaard.
Well-known local actors Marcel Corson (Othello, Hairspray, Showstoppers, Power of Love) and Maxine Hobbs (Hairspray, Showstoppers, Roses and Rain) portray the characters of Tom and Laura Wingfield respectively. Linda Smith (Othello) will grace the stage as Amanda Wingfield, which is today still one of the greatest roles in theatre.
Joining the local cast on stage is Cameron McEwan, returning to the stage and his roots in the Eastern Cape as Tom Wingfield. McEwan who started off his career by winning the Grand Champion of Acting award at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Los Angeles in 2003 as a student of Taljaard. Taljaard and McEwan worked together on the critically acclaimed 2005 Grahamstown production Ramhorn. He went on to work in film and television and was recently seen as the character of Nelson in M-Net’s The Wild, currently being shown on Mzansi. Other roles included appearances on Backstage and Scandal.
“I am thrilled to be involved in this mesmerizing production of The Glass Menagerie. This beautiful story will leave audiences moved and enchanted by the beauty that is life and love”
The Glass Menagerie will be presented on 18, 19 and 20 July, 2013 at the Alexander Playhouse in Derwent Ave, Cambridge. Tickets are R50 each and bookings can be made at Lee Gold Music at Phone: 043 7351586. Patrons are welcome to bring their own snacks and drinks to performances which would start nightly at 19:00 for curtain up at 19:30.
Pushed by his mother, he finds Laura a gentleman caller to try to coax her from her fragile private world.
1930’s St Louis. Aspiring poet Tom Wingfield reluctantly works in a shoe warehouse to support his overbearing, faded-Southern-belle mother and desperately shy sister, Laura. Don’t miss this re-imagined modern classic directed by American guest director, Jef Hall-Flavin,Executive Director of the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
“Intense, engrossing and riveting.”- San Francisco Chronicle
“Fiercely moving and seriously funny… The bite of the humor disarms and delights.” – New York Times
“The Glass Menagerie is Tennessee Williams’ first great masterpiece and perhaps most autobiographical play. I’m thrilled that this production combines the talents of the fabulous Elizabeth Hawthorne and American guest director, Jef Hall-Flavin to bring to life this hauntingly beautiful work.” – Colin
Running time: 2 hours 20mins including interval.
Because with that quick, backward step, which occurs during Tom Wingfield’s opening monologue in the gorgeous new production of “The Glass Menagerie” at the American Repertory Theater, something both momentous and commonplace has happened.
A man has been pulled out of the present and sent stumbling into a past that is never not waiting to claim him. And if the letting go isn’t entirely voluntary, it has the resignation of someone who knew it was going to happen; after all, it never does stop happening, does it?
Tom, played in a benchmark performance by Zachary Quinto, rights himself automatically after that stumble and walks matter-of-factly into the threadbare St. Louis apartment he inhabited years earlier with his mother and sister. But we know that from now on he’s falling, and that we’ll be falling with him.
Memory is a force of gravity in this “Glass Menagerie,” which is such a thorough rejuvenation of Tennessee Williams’s 1944 drama that I hesitate to call it a revival. Staged by John Tiffany with the choreographer Steven Hoggett, this production gives visual life to the forms and rhythms of reminiscence in ways that you’ve surely never seen before but that feel uncompromisingly right.
Working with a top-notch cast of four — Mr. Quinto, Cherry Jones, Celia Keenan-Bolgerand Brian J. Smith — and a technical team of poets, Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Hoggett (fruitful collaborators on “Once” and “Black Watch”) have created a complete and self-contained landscape that follows its own distorting and distilling laws of physics.
Tom doesn’t hedge in giving that world a name. “This play is memory,” he says simply. And more than any production of “Menagerie” I’ve seen, this one presents Tom’s account of a chapter in his life — set to music as airborne as wind chimes (by Nico Muhly) — as the product of a single lyrical, dramatizing, guilt-crippled mind. And in doing so, it suggests how retrospection makes poets of us all, as we transform personal history into something we can live with.
I know you’re aching to hear about Ms. Jones, perhaps the greatest stage actress of her generation, as Amanda Wingfield, one of the greatest roles in American theater. Let me assure you that she’s both even more than you hoped for and not at all what you might have expected. But I’m going to linger a bit longer on the general mise-en-scène, because it so defines how the cast members move through it.
The set and costume designer Bob Crowley has envisioned the cramped apartment shared by Amanda and her children, Tom and Laura (Ms. Keenan-Bolger), as polygonal platforms on the edge of eternal night. I don’t mean just the shadows that lap at the set. (Natasha Katz is the magic-making lighting designer.)
A moat of black liquid lies, placid and menacing, in front of the stage, and every so often one of the characters walks to its brink and stares into it. It’s the abyss — of death, yes, but even worse, of being lost in life — that threatens these three family members who cling together so fractiously.
The forms this clinging takes are among the best known in American drama. Amanda is the former Southern belle, whose handsome, restless husband left her 16 years ago with two children, whom she nags and prods relentlessly, in the voice of a dead civilization.
As the familiar story proceeds — with Amanda needling Tom into bringing a gentleman caller home for dinner to meet the agoraphobic Laura — the actions and images assume shapes, both heightened and pared-down, that suggest how we edit and exaggerate when we remember. And how memory can sometimes not creep up, but leap up, on us, as when Laura first makes her entrance into Tom’s imagination. (I’ll let you experience that one firsthand.)
Years’ worth of domestic ritual — of meals cooked and tables laid and cleared — is summoned by a wordless ballet of gestures performed by Amanda and Laura. A repeated vision of Laura struggling to move a heavy typewriter is frozen in the amber of a brother’s pained guilt.
Tom himself is forever pacing, practically racing, falling onto furniture as if he meant to shatter it. When the family sits down to dinner, you never see the food. And Laura’s collection of little glass animals has been reduced to a single unicorn, which casts prismatic light from a low stool whenever she looks upon it. Memory has latched on to and enlarged the details that count.
Williams allowed for great latitude to those who would later stage the play, with one caveat: “When a play employs unconventional techniques,” he wrote, “it is not, or certainly shouldn’t be, trying to escape its responsibility of dealing with reality.” And as stylized as this “Menagerie” may be, its emotions never feel less than acutely real.
We are always aware of the visceral bond that connects the Wingfields, of the love as well as the rancor. The alarmed, heart-stopping cries that spring from Tom and Amanda whenever Laura stumbles are testimonies to a passionate, worried protectiveness they mostly try to conceal. Laura has never seemed more mortally fragile.
Yet Ms. Keenan-Bolger endows her with a feral stubbornness within the shyness, like an animal burrowed in a safe lair who knows that it’s dangerous outside. When Laura timidly ventures out of that burrow, to make fleeting contact with the long-awaited gentleman caller, Jim (the excellent Mr. Smith), her worst instincts are confirmed, though only after an exquisite interlude of shimmering hopefulness.
Mr. Quinto, best known for his screen work, is the finest Tom I’ve ever seen, a defensive romantic, sardonically in love with his own lush powers of description. You truly feel that he is shaping this play as we watch, and we wince and marvel in those moments when he no longer seems in control, when reality rears its reproachful head.
That head belongs to Ms. Jones, who delivers a magnificently human performance, anchoring Amanda without the customary grotesque eccentricities. For all her florid talk of a glorious, genteel Southern youth, this Amanda is rooted in the shabby, debt-plagued present and determined to take command of it, even though the tools she uses are woefully anachronistic.
Ms. Jones makes Amanda’s garrulousness her survival strategy, as if talking might keep the wolf from the door — and keep her from seeing the darkness that waits to devour her family. She knows it’s there; you hear that knowledge when Ms. Jones’s voice sinks into cryptlike chest tones.
As for that fabled scene where Amanda dons a frilly frock from her girlhood to greet Laura’s gentleman caller, Ms. Jones presents it without camp or pathos. When Amanda, in that frock, describes one spinning, malaria-touched summer of her gilded youth, Ms. Jones miraculously becomes the beautiful girl who first wore that dress.
Memory may be a torturer in “The Glass Menagerie.” But every so often, as this glorious production allows, it lights up the darkness like a divine benediction.
The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams; directed by John Tiffany; sets and costumes by Bob Crowley; lighting by Natasha Katz; sound by Clive Goodwin; music by Nico Muhly; dialect coach, Nancy Houfek; movement by Steven Hoggett; production stage manager, Chris de Camillis. Presented by American Repertory Theater, Diane Paulus, artistic director. At the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass.; (617) 547-8300 americanrepertorytheater.org. Through March 17. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
WITH: Cherry Jones (Amanda Wingfield), Zachary Quinto (Tom), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Laura) and Brian J. Smith (the Gentleman Caller).
A version of this review appeared in print on February 16, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: The