Maryland Ensemble Theatre continues its tradition of producing thought-provoking theatre with their heartfelt and powerful production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Director Peter Wray has the luxury of working with an exceptional cast.
Set Designer Ira Domser uses so many stacks of boxes to create the set it looks like they were filming an episode of television’s Hoarders. It was definitely a new take and was so different from other productions of the show I have seen. There is a dinning room table, a picture and a day bed. A couple of boxes convert into neat display cases where the glass miniature curios are kept. These boxes also cleverly serve to create the crammed city scenes, and the walls of the apartment are sometimes left open to help the audience follow the action outside. It is a creative gamble, but it works splendidly for this production. Kevin Lloyd executes the sound well whether it’s turning on the record player or providing music in certain scenes. He succeeds in never overpowering the cast.
Matt Lee, who portrays Tom Wingfield, grabbed the audience from his first emotional opening scene and was able to switched through a gamut of emotions to deliver a superb performance – from arguing with his mother, to showing concern for his sister, portraying his dreams to his friend, or stumbling home drunk from the movies.
Julie Herber does a wonderful job as Amanda Wingfield, the controlling matriarch who longs for her younger days and rambles on about the time when gentlemen callers lined up to visit her on Blue Mountain. Her scenes with Lee and Vanessa Strickland (Laura) are so convinving and powerful, and watching her drive a wedge between her and Tom is quite disturbing.
Vanessa Strickland is perfectly fragile as Laura Wingfield. Throughout the play she convincingly limps from a childhood illness and suffers from a severe inferiority complex. She is an emotional roller coaster and Strickland takes the audience on a long and winding journey of emotions. Her scenes where she derives pleasure by taking out her collection of glass miniatures – The Glass Menagerie – and listening to to her father’s records on the vintage record player – shows the versatility of this fine actress as her face and eyes light up from the happiness and joy she is feeling. It was infectious.
Joe Jalette, who plays Jim O’Conner – the male suitor – exudes warmth and optimism in his scenes with the shy Strickland. Jim was popular in high school and now has a ‘lowly’ warehouse job, but he keeps his head up with hope and ambition. Jim does help to bring Laura out of her shell (Laura had a crush on him back in her high school days), and Jalette’s charm helps him become an audience favorite. Their ‘first kiss’ melted my heart.
MET’s The Glass Menagerie is beautifully acted and directed and filled with hope, heartbreak, and yearning. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 10 minute, with a 15-minute intermission.