A talented small cast, excellent lighting and sound effects and a beautifully designed set combine to make BYU's "The Glass Menagerie" quite an enjoyable night at the theater.
From the beginning moments until the play's somber ending, this production is engaging and admirably performed. The audience is able to feel such emotions as desperate hope and finally despair as the characters act out their painful pasts.The play is declared a memory at the onset by its narrator, Tom (Christopher Clark). Tom is attempting to reconcile himself with actions and decisions regarding his family.
Tom's mother Amanda (Barta Heiner) is still desperately dreaming about her past as a young woman in the South who would receive as many as 17 gentlemen callers in one day.
Tom's father abandoned the family, and Amanda, who depends heavily upon her son to support the family, faces the pain both of losing her husband and of seeing her son grow more and more distant.
Tom's sister Laura (Kymberly Luke Mellen) is extremely shy due to a limp that she sees as an abnormality that will never make her acceptable to others. She fills her time playing phonograph records and taking care of her glass menagerie, a set of small glass animals she treasures. Much of the play's action centers on Amanda's desire to find Laura a "gentleman caller." Tom brings his acquaintance Jim (Matt Rock-wood) home for dinner, an event that at first seems promising for Laura but soon crushes her as easily as one of her glass animals.
All the characters are equally well-presented, with Clark making Tom appropriately restless and at times loud and argumentative. Heiner is excellent as she creates a woman who lives in a sort of dream world, an attempt to escape the harsh reality she faces. There is a great scene between Tom and Amanda as she demands to know where he spends his evenings and he responds by lashing out, at times comically, against her questions.
The last scene features a long conversation between Jim and Laura. The awkwardness of the situation is played well by both actors, as is the slowly growing trust and intimacy and the breaking of that trust. Indeed, this is probably the most fascinating part of the play, and both actors should be commended for their performances.
As a memory recalled by Tom, the play is lit dimly, with lighting changes creating various combinations of light and shadow. This effect is achieved well without causing the audience to lose its view of the actors or the action. The changes are subtle and add immensely to the production without drawing attention away from the actors.
The set is also excellently designed. Creating the image of an apartment in the city of St. Louis, the set presents a brick wall backdrop, with windows and stairs giving the impression of metal fire escapes and adjoining residences. The living room and dining room of the apartment are visible, divided by a wall of material that looks like wallpaper but is transparent enough that the audience can see the action behind it. This conveys the stark feeling of a rundown city apartment amid other drab buildings.
Overall, "The Glass Menagerie" is a serious play but an enjoyable one. Don't let this opportunity to see an excellent production of this classic pass by.