Tri-State Theater

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

"The Glass Menagerie" - A Review

The Glass Menagerie is a show that gets staged a lot, especially by high schools across the country, and there are lots of reasons for that. It uses a small cast, requires only a minimal set, and it's a moving and thought-provoking show.

But to really experience the power of Tennessee Williams' classic story, you need to see this production being staged by Marshall University's Department of Theatre. It's a shining example of the power of live theatre.

Consider the cast. It's a small show, and only four actors take the stage. The narrator of the story, Tom, is played with intensity and assurance by Adam Terry. He introduces the performance as a "memory play" and also appears in the play as himself, a young man forced to cope with the responsibilities of providing a home for his mother and sister.

Playing the role of the mother, Amanda, is Mary P. Williams, and she gives an amazing performance. It's rare to see a performer actually become the character they're presenting, to such an extent that you forget that you're watching an actor practicing her craft. That's how completely she assumes the role - she's perfect and absolutely believable. Sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating - Amanda is EveryMom, and not many will watch the show without thinking at some point, "That sounds like something Mom would say."

Caitlin Haught tackles the difficult role of Laura, Tom's shy, crippled sister who lives a lonely life, despite her mother's best efforts to bring her out of her shell. She delivers a sweet, touching performance and absolutely nails a deceptively difficult role. It would be easy to make Laura a whiny, annoying character, but Caitlin wins your heart and creates a character who's both sweet and sympathetic.

The final member of the cast doesn't show up until the second act, but his arrival is the catalyst that changes the lives of the other three. Jeremy Plyburn plays The Gentleman Caller, and what a terrific job he does, exuding confidence, charm and a (somewhat self-centered) drive to succeed. I've watched Jeremy grow up on stage, and he's always been an excellent performer - but he's honed his craft and become an outstanding actor, too.

The story these four tell is what might be called a "small" story, or at least a personal one, as the three family members deal with the stress of everyday life. But through the lyrical writing of Williams, our hearts go out to their trials, and we're reminded of the power of a personal journey, where something as small as a dinner date can be the most important thing in the world - and where a breaking heart can shake the firmament.

Trust me on this, you owe it to yourself to see this production, and see why it's considered a stage classic. Every aspect of the show is excellent, including the set design, costumes and the tech work - and kudos to Jack Cirillo for his fine work here. Under his direction, the acting carries the story here, and it's why you'll be thinking about the show long after you've left the theatre.

It's the smallest cast of any show I've seen in years, but it's also one of the most touching, moving and thoughtful shows I've seen, too. Highly recommended!

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