Every time you come in yelling that God damn “Rise and Shine!” “Rise and Shine!” I say to myself, “How lucky dead people are!
Tennessee Williams is one of a handful of playwrights that dives deep below the surface of a dysfunctional family and writes it very eloquently. It almost makes you wish you were a member of the family just to be immortalized in literature. Williams modeled the wretched Wingfields after his own family. Amanda disguised as the playwright’s ornery mother Edwina, his schizophrenic sister Rose, in the play as Laura (played heartbreakingly by Amanda Correia) Rose was lobotomized in real life and never recovered from the damage. Then there’s Tom an aspiring writer wasting his life away at a shoe warehouse. His only other creative outlet is going to the movies. Tom (actor and director Wilson Better) goes to the movies a lot and which ticks off his mother. Amanda (played with a lot of fire and spirit by Katherine Cortez) is very bossy and longs for her youth as a Southern belle who grew up on the Blue Mountain plantation. She claims to have many suitors after her but settled on a good-looking, an excellent talker of a man who worked for the telephone company and “fell in love with long distance” so much that he abandoned his family.
Mr. Wingfield doesn’t even have a first name that’s how badly the family wants to forget him but can’t. His picture hangs prominently on the wall observing the antics of the family he left behind. This memory play is heard from Tom’s perspective. Even he admits that he has “things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He [Mr. Wingfield] gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” Tom longs to leave home and begin a new life but his obligations towards Amanda and Laura temporarily prevents him for doing so. In the meantime, Amanda encourages Tom to bring a gentleman caller for his sister. The lucky man is former high school classmate Jim O’Conner (James O’Halloran is simply charismatic with his rapid-fire speech and charming manners). A former popular jock and potential actor, now, working as a shipping clerk at the shoe factory with Tom, Jim overcompensates his lowly position by impressing the women on how he’s taking a public speaking course, which will eventually lead to an executive positon. Yeah, okay. Jim believes it and Laura believes it for him to. He also has a problem about going on like Dr. Phil advising Laura that she suffers from having an inferiority complex and advises on how to overcome it. Really? I’m sure she will take it to heart if she’s crazy. Laura is more nervous around Jim because of an old high school crush she had on him. They dance closely and share a tender kiss giving Laura a little bit of hope in her dire situation. But of course, this is a Tennessee Williams play and nothing ever turns out how it should be but the way it’s supposed to end.
Better is excellent as Tom longing to escape his dull existence for a more meaningful one. His love for his sister makes it more difficult to leave but listening to his mother about the good ole days at Blue Mountain makes him want to wrap the telephone cord around her fragile neck. Jim doesn’t help by seemingly courting Laura and advising her on how to make her life better when he has problems with his own.
A wonderful and brilliant cast brought this grim tale of a family saga as authentically as possible. Audience members will be able to connect with the forlorn family and feel sympathy but be grateful they are not part of it. Not everyone wants to be immortalized on the page.
The Glass Menagerie plays Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m., until Sunday, May 17th, at the Renegade Theater, located at 1514 N. Gardner St., in Los Angeles. For ticket information, call (323) 874-1733 or reserve online at http://renegadegm.eventbrite.com