Feature photo: Frank Jimenez and Hannah Brannau by John C. Hawthorne
Once again, Tennessee Williams kicks off Arden Theatre Company’s season, this time with his beloved classic, The Glass Menagerie. The play, originally produced in 1944, is semi-autobiographical and placed Williams on the map as one of the most important playwrights of the 20th century. Known as a “memory play”- a term coined by Williams to describe the style in which The Glass Menagerie is presented- the production has seen countless revivals on the Broadway stage and theatres across the world.
We watch the The Glass Menagerie unfold through the memories of Tom (played by Sean Lally), the head of the Wingfield household. He shares a small apartment with his mother Amanda (Krista Apple), who was once a Southern bell, and his shy, fragile sister Laura (Hannah Brannau in her Arden debut) who spends her days hiding from business college and admiring her collection of glass animals. Tom wants to leave home, but can’t do so until he helps his mother find a gentleman caller for Laura. He brings home a friend (Frank Jimenez) to meet Laura, but the effort doesn’t go as planned.
The small cast of four collectively bring a lot of emotion to the stage, presented as a theatre-in-the-round setting so the audience can experience the story at all angles. Krista Apple’s Amanda is grand and over-the-top; we understand who she once was and how exhausted she has been as she’s stripped from everything except being a single mother to her grown children. Sean Lally highlights Tom’s frustrations and struggles- he’s trapped and the audience can feel it. Hannah Brannau’s Laura is sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Frank Jimenez, as Jim O’Connor, gives the story new meaning as we now can see how the Wingfield family may be perceived by the people outside of their home.
In some ways, we can all sympathize with the isolation these characters are feeling. We’re just coming out of pandemic “stay at home” phases, holding on to hope and realizing we may want new experiences, adventures, career paths as a result. Arden’s The Glass Menagerie, directed by Producing Artistic Director Terrence J. Nolen, captures the root of the Wingfield family story and makes it easy for the audience to justify the desires of each character.
The Glass Menagerie is at Arden through November 6th. Tickets here.