The Glass Menagerie | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Glass Menagerie

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THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Red Wolf Theatre Company, at Angel Island. The beauty of a masterpiece like Tennessee Williams's Glass Menagerie is that it can withstand lots of abuse--uninspired direction, eccentric lighting, less than expert acting--and still be moving.

This is all the newly formed Red Wolf Theatre Company manages, hobbled as it is by an approach that emphasizes the episodic nature of the play. Usually directors cross-fade from one scene to the next so that the story flows from its dreamy, nostalgic beginning to its heartbreaking end. But director Maura Elizabeth Manning gives us long, full blackouts between scenes, pointlessly underlining Williams's youthful foray into Brechtian playwriting and shattering the piece into a sketch-comedy revue without punch lines.

To make matters worse, several members of the cast only skim the surface of the play--most notably Susan Block, whose Amanda Winfield is not bitchy or clawing enough to be convincing as a southern belle now trying to raise a family in the depths of the Depression. Likewise Brad Alperin's Tom rarely seems as desperate or angry as the script requires--this Tom is hardly the selfish but likable cad Williams envisioned.

Nevertheless the play survives, thanks in large part to Alperin's inspired rendition of Tom's prologue and the wonderful chemistry between Carla Colaianni as Laura and Jason McCune during the gentleman-caller scenes near the end.

--Jack Helbig

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