Monday, May 11, 2015

The Glass Menagerie, TrueNorth Cultural Arts

(From left: Isabel Billinghurst as Laura and Anne McEvoy as Amanda)

Gas is pretty cheap these days (relatively speaking), which is why you should invest some of that bargain-priced petrol in a trip to Sheffield Village to catch the last weekend of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

It is an elegantly-tuned production of this iconic script, a memory play that hides brass knuckles inside Williams’ poetic lines. As directed by Fred Sternfeld, this Menagerie is not overdone or undercooked. The characters pulse with honest, well-earned humanity and it is an untrammeled pleasure to watch these four actors negotiate the tiny, claustrophobic world of the Wingfields.

As matriarch Amanda, Anne McEvoy is delicate and understated, not as flamboyant as Amanda is sometimes portrayed. But McEvoy’s Amanda is equipped with the uncompromising will and crushing intent of a Prussian army battalion in full military gear. As she quietly berates and corrects her grown children Tom and Laura, the audience twists and contorts in involuntary response to this charming, southern force of nature. McEvoy has never been better.

Keeping pace with her is Corey Knick as the poet Tom, a lost soul trapped under the hazy glass bowl that is the recollection of his mother’s suffocating presence. Knick and Sternfeld veer away from having Tom be Tennessee-light and make him a gentle, tormented soul who narrates the play in a soft, Missouri accent that lulls you into his memories.

Much of the angst swirls around Tom’s older sister Laura (a fragile and sweetly tragic Isabel Billinghurst), who is hampered by a limp and an inability to deal with the outside world. So mom is focused on finding her a beau, and at this time (during the Depression) that begins with having a “gentleman caller.” So the second act is built around the dinner visit of Jim O’Connor, Tom’s friend from work who used to know Laura in high school. As Jim, Jeremy Jenkins has the look of an ex-jock gone to seed, since the real world has stomped on his dreams of success.

Indeed, this is a play about people who can’t deal with reality, and this production manages to find that truth without resorting to unreal characterizations. Like the empty frame that holds what is supposedly the smiling portrait of the deceased Mr. Wingfield, this Menagerie isn’t bold or obvious. It works its magic in the shadows, in the glint from characters who are as vulnerable as Laura’s precious glass figurines.

Don’t miss it.

The Glass Menagerie

Through May 17 at TrueNorth Cultural Arts, 4530 Colorado Ave., Sheffield Village, 440-949-5200.

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