Ava Homa, Culture Writer
Deftly directed by John Henry Davis, who has helmed International City Theatre productions of A Walk in the Woods, End of the Rainbow and Trying, Glass Menagerie is a spectacular revival of Tennessee Williams’s exquisitely-lyrical play.
Tom (Ty Mayberry) brims with talent, youth and ambition. One of his co-workers at the warehouse calls him Shakespeare because he hides in the bathroom to write. Others look at him suspiciously. What Tom lacks, however, is the freedom to pursue his fervor. He is the breadwinner for a handicapped and shy sister and an overbearing mother.
Family duties hang heavy on Tom, his small apartment the graveyard of his dreams. To satisfy his cravings for adventure and love, a trapped and depressed Tom finds relief in fantasizing with movie heroes on the screens and with couples dancing and kissing in the Paradise Club at the curve of his street. Should Tom stay loyal to his passion or his mother and sister who need him? What if Tom is Tennessee Williams in disguise in this autobiographical play?
Tom is not the only disappointed member of the wounded Wingfield family who is struggling in modern America. Abandoned by her husband, Amanda (acted masterfully by Jennifer Parsons) is dedicated to her children Tom and Laura, wanting them to be “happy and successful.” She is unaware that her excessive intrusions are pushing her children further away from joy and achievement.
Laura (Lizzie Zerebko), who lacks the looks and the social skill to find either a husband or a job, is a hopeless and sensitive dependent whose only joy in life is playing with her wind-up gramophone and her glass miniature animals, symbolically broken by her brother and her crush.
Ironically, when the power goes off during the night because of unpaid bills, a glimmer of hope appears in the household, shifting the melancholic tone of the play to a romantic one.
Lighting by Stacy McKenney is a major element in this beautiful staging of Tennessee Williams’s breakthrough play, especially when hope glimmers. The large shadow of the couple kissing, the light on the glass animals in a dark room or the silhouette of the mother trimming her daughter’s special skirt make for delightful spectacles.
The cast members are comfortable and confident in their roles, making it impossible to find “the bad guy” in their midst. Even Laura’s high-school crush who reappears and makes her briefly bloom is not despicable.
The set and prompts are charming and effective. A large and lit portrait of the father hangs on the wall, making the pain of his absence an ever-present one. The billboard of Paradise Club, also lit and large, juxtaposes the mood of the desperate family at a dead-end.
Overall, Glass Menagerie is an intriguing and brilliant drama that raises difficult questions about human powerlessness against the harsh realities of poverty and gender oppression.
Glass Menagerie runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm through Sept. 9. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays and $49 on Saturdays and Sundays. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 330 E. Seaside Wy. For reservations and information, call (562) 436-4610 or go to InternationalCityTheatre.org.