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Review: ‘The Glass Menagerie’ at Parlor Room Theater

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Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is an American theater classic. At its center a story about a shattered family, the show is timeless in its themes. Parlor Room Theater (PRT) Director Dillon DiSalvo brought forth the utmost from his cast. PRT’s The Glass Menagerie features some of the best performances on D.C. area stages this year.

Amy Leigh Horan (Laura)  and Kathryn Barrett-Gaines (Amanda). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.

The show takes a look at the dysfunctional Wingfield family, who reside in mid-20th century St. Louis, Missouri. Each of the characters is hopeless in their own way. Especially twenty-four-year-old Laura Wingfield, who sees herself as a cripple and a misfit. Laura lives in a world all her own.

Her brother Tom Wingfield, a pathetic factory laborer and aspiring poet, thinks he still has it in him to be what every man should be, a: “lover, hunter, fighter.” Tom yearns to escape his oppressive family and their cramped apartment and possibly see the world, like his father, “a telephone repairman who fell in love with long distances.”

Matriarch Amanda Wingfield fears her daughter Laura will become a “barely tolerated spinster” and is forever trying to set her up romantically with a “gentleman caller.” The best way Laura can describe her daughter is: “Still water runs deep.” Tom’s old high school friend, and current colleague Jim O’Connor turns out to be a possible solution to Amanda’s search for a gentleman caller for her daughter.

By the Theater Gods, I have to say that the performances in this show were phenomenal. Kathryn Barrett-Gaines’ Amanda, with her charming Mississippi accent and nuanced control of every emotional beat of the character, was superb. In her sixth PRT show, Barrett-Gaines pursued her character’s motherly objectives perfectly.

Robert Pike’s Tom, the narrator of the story, was so good as to be flawless. His performance as Tom showed every emotional segment of the character – his anger, his eagerness, his despair.

Amy Leigh Horan as Laura was the embodiment of a fragile girl not ready to face the World – too nervous to finish Rubicon Business College. Her limp and look was spot on. She played Laura’s objective, to hide from life, perfectly.

Thomas DiSalvo’s Jim O’Connor was every bit the puffed up striver. A bit arrogant and pushy, DiSalvo’s O’Connor was a portrait of a can-do mid-20th Century American. DiSalvo (who has acted in every PRT show) played O’Connor’s wants and needs flawlessly.

Thomas DiSalvo (Jim) and Kathryn Barrett-Gaines (Amanda). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.

Director Dillon DiSalvo made some interesting directorial choices. There was a screen, mounted high above the actors, that served as a Greek Chorus, displaying bits of dialogue (e.g. “What have you done since high school?”), old pictures, and thematic phrases. (Frank DiSalvo, Jr. did a good job with projection and sound.) Another interesting choice the director made was to have Amanda mime accidentally pouring lemonade on herself.

Ember DiSalvo’s set, within Callan Theatre’s black box, featured many charming set pieces: a kitchenette upstage, an old typewriter stage right, an old Victrola turntable stage left. Her costumes, including the men’s suits, hats and suspenders, captured the period nicely.

Robert Pike (Tom) and Amy Leigh Horan (Laura). Photo by Meagan C. Beach.

While most of the lighting choices worked, including a segment wherein the lights in the apartment went out, I found Grant Hill’s lighting at times a little dark, possibly due to thematic allusions to the past. Thomas DiSalvo’s props, including an electronic candle that stood in for a real one and old newspapers, were well chosen.

What’s the sum of it all? Parlor Room Theater’s beautiful production of The Glass Menagerie is a sheer acting clinic, enjoyable by students of the craft and those that love a great night of theater.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 10-minute intermission.

The Glass Menagerie plays through May 28, 2017, at Parlor Room Theater performing at Catholic University’s Callan Theatre – 3801 Harewood Road, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 340-8623, or purchase them online.

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