★★★★☆ - Delicious
Perhaps knowing that a jaded theatregoer might bring a host of preconceptions and expectations to the thrice-familiar The Glass Menagerie, the cast and production team at A Public Fit Theatre Company resolutely conveyed an infectious sense of discovery in their carefully crafted realization.
While the piece is well known as a “memory play,” directors Ann-Marie Pereth and Joseph D. Kucan did not seem to be looking backward, since they devised a distinctly fresh and forward-looking production style, imbuing the drama with honesty and more than the usual wit. The pair was greatly assisted by a team of top tier designers.
The audience curves around Eric A. Kroger’s evocative setting, which begins the evening as a scattering of pieces hidden by canvas dustcovers. During Tom’s highly theatrical opening monologue, he paces among the mounds of “memories” removing the cloths, bunching them up in a pile and revealing furniture and props, almost all of which will be creatively grouped and re-grouped by the actors to suggest the elusiveness of remembrances. In a brilliant touch, the last cloth Tom removes is the largest and reveals the first of many delightful surprises that the evening has in store.
The metal fire escape is up left, a decaying wall with the swinging kitchen door is up center, a profusion of framed mirrors on the backing curtain up left is balanced by a full length mirror stage right, place very near to a suspended portrait of the absent, wayward father. Wisps of dusky smoke occasionally waft in the air. The illusory imagery is further enhanced by Joshua Wroblewski’s meticulously nuanced lighting design. Mr. Wroblewski not only complements the dramatic beats with effective specials and washes, but also capitalizes on shadowy fringes that frame key moments. An artful projection and a “remembered” neon sign add whimsy to the drama.
Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova has created a spot-on costume design that perfectly defines the station of these low-income, blue collar characters. The mother makes one key entrance in a costume so apt for the moment that a ripple of knowing approval for “the look” ran through the house. Jon-Erik DeGuzman composed a haunting score that was a key component in the sensitive sound design by Tim Sage.
In short, Ms. Pereth, Mr. Kucan and this talented team created just the right blend of heightened reality and unabashed theatricality. Many props were pantomimed, though not all. Only the unicorn was glass, with the rest of the menagerie first imagined, then augmented with balls of paper Tom discards as he writes. It took me a bit to figure out why Amanda and Laura had (glass) plates at the table, while Tom completely pantomimed his plate and food. I guessed that Tom was imagining everything, while in his memory the others were re-living it. In any case, such minor inconsistencies proved a “distractor factor” that sometimes pulled me out of the moment.
If there are four more iconic roles in American theatre, I don’t know what they are. I was completely engaged by the freshness and commitment each of the actors brought to the mix. As the fretting matriarch Amanda, Joan Mullaney brought a stature and a wealth of humanity to the role, which successfully balanced the rough edges of a domineering meddler. Marcus Weiss contributed a polished turn as Tom, although as the narrator I found his declarative style just a bit too loud to be engaging.
This seemed to be a clear decision as the opening bantering scene between son and mother retained a high pitch. It took a little time for some loving playfulness to be injected, which was masterfully on display beginning with Tom’s cat and mouse reveal to mom that he has invited a gentleman caller. I wished that some of that could have been brought forward and established in their first contretemps. Too, I think Tom might explore more of a build to the speech that ultimately derides his mother as a witch. Still, his was an assured portrtayal.
Rebecca Reyes was a winning Laura, her loveliness and fragility always perfectly in balance. Ms. Reyes invests the tortured introvert with just the right simplicity, and her variations on limping seem to suggest that perhaps it manifests greater severity at certain emotional states. That she loses the hobble during the fantasy dance with Jim is indicative of insightful choices.
As the gentleman caller, Andrew Calvert was personable and assured. His strapping swagger believably morphed into a genuine, touching affection for Laura. His revelation of his relationship status to Amanda and Laura was heartbreaking in its pained clumsiness.
The Glass Menagerie upholds this fine company’s reputation for quality and careful attention to detail. The staging was fluid and believable. Every square foot of the playing space was effectively used. Character relationships were solidly defined, and their placement in countless varieties of groupings was well motivated. Overall, the evening was splendidly paced. And the physical production forwarded the emotional impact in every way.
Whether this is your first encounter with this timeless classic, or your twenty-first, you will find much to admire in this well-mounted version by A Public Fit.
The Glass Menagerie
Feb 16 - Mar 11, 2018
Th - Sat 7:30pm
Sun 2pm (additional Sat matinees 3/3 & 3/10)
A Public Fit @ The Usual Place
100 So. Maryland Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89101
Tom Wingfield: Marcus Weiss; Amanda Wingfield: Joan Mullaney; Laura Wingfield: Rebecca Reyes; Jim O’Connor: Andrew Calvert; Directors: Ann-Marie Pereth, Joseph D. Kucan; Set Design: Eric A. Kroger; Costume design: Mariya Radeva-Nedyalkova; Lighting Design: Joshua Wroblewski; Sound Design: Tim Sage