Glass Menagerie or hopeless predicament?


Rusty Strait | Senior Reporter

DISCLOSURE: (During WWII, while going through the U. S. Army Air Corps radio school at Scott Field, Illinois, just outside St. Louis, I was a 20-year-old who knew Hollywood but not legitimate theater. I was privileged to spend Sunday afternoons at a wealthy gentleman’s St. Louis, where he entertained various folks. I often sat on the steps overlooking the main room with a somewhat shy man and had many conversations with him. I had no idea who he was or what kind of career he had. I later learned that he was a famous playwright. His name? Tennessee Williams.

The Ramona Hillside Players’ current presentation of The Glass Menagerie is one of Tennessee’s most famous plays. Although presented as dramatic, it has both sad and hilarious implications.

The star and scene-stealer at every curve and bend, Amanda Winfield (played by Kathleen Walker) is hell-bent for leather to save her children from a life like her own. She married down and wants a better life for Tom and Laura. She is so typical of a woman who makes do with what her lot in life is but wants her children to do better.

Her son, Tom, played by John Wesley Leon, is a somewhat shiftless young man who feels trapped in a life of taking care of his mother. In contrast, the daughter, Laura, played by Lauren Haynes, seems to exist in a world of shyness and fear of everything except her menagerie of glass figurines. It would be easy to view her as somewhat retarded.

Act One sets up the hopeless situation that is Act Two, when Tom brings a young man home from work for dinner and to meet his family. So far as Amanda is concerned, he will be the ideal future husband for Laura. Jim O’Connor (played by Nathaniel Vogel) is the unsuspecting young man – tall and handsome – who is a good catch since he is gainfully employed and looks like he is virile and will give Amanda grandchildren.

Laura is so shy she doesn’t want to meet him at the front door and certainly doesn’t entertain any idea of sitting down at the dinner table with him and she is forced to do so at her mother’s insistence.

Courtesy Photo of Rusty Strait

The evening ends in disaster when Laura starts to have feelings for Jim. The naive young man senses that he is being set up and announces that he is engaged to be married. Amanda’s hopes and plans fall flat on the floor. Her immediate reaction is to blame Tom for bringing home an engaged young man. Laura draws back into herself and rushes to hide with her menagerie.

The final scene brings the family cuddled together on the settee, where they realize that what they have is each other and they will have to be happy with that.

This is a very professionally acted outing. Every actor is brilliant and has moments that shine while dealing with personal problems.

Kami Martin excels in her direction, as does all the production crew, with the exception of sound and lighting, as I’ve suggested below.

The only problems are with the production’s lighting and the acoustics. I sat in the front row and half the time, it was impossible to understand what the cast was saying. The saving grace was in the actors’ movements and gestures. This is a common problem with their productions. Unfortunately, the sound should overshadow great acting. The playhouse needs to provide a microphone system for the actors.

However, it is difficult to fault a Tennessee Williams play that is so well-acted and I would give this production a high rating despite the production problems. I would urge your attendance if you appreciate acting. Just saying

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