The Glass Menagerie
The decision that ensures the realization of Williams' original intent, however, was the casting of Vincent Ernest Siders as Tom and Nancy E. Carroll as Amanda. Their brilliantly measured performances restore the balance of the play to Tom and render these characters, not as a cipher and a monster, but rather as the loving portraits of Williams as a young artist and his mother as his first protector and provider that the playwright drew upon for their creation.
Siders navigates the vagaries of memory as both narrator and participant. The lyrical cadence of his voice ably represents the poet that Tom aspires to be (and the poet that Williams is). The choreography of his movement makes it clear that Tom's struggle with his current situation - a dreary warehouse job, a stifling domestic life shoring up his mother and sister, endless debilitating nights spent at the movies (or elsewhere)- is coming to the boiling point.
Carroll imbues Amanda with genuine charm, humor and intelligence to go along with an animal feistiness and practicality when it comes to ensuring the survival of her offspring. Her Amanda is as much grounded in present reality - the economic depression with a silver lining of hope for better things to come - as she is lost in the memory of her more comfortable, romanticized past.
Their work together is so breathtaking that in the long passage in the second half of the play between Tom's sister Laura (Emily Sophia Knapp) and her long-awaited Gentleman Caller (Lewis Wheeler), we are eager for their return. That's not meant to discredit these two fine young actors, only to be empathic about the power of the entire ensemble and the sparks that fly thanks to Engel's skillful execution of the dynamics of these relationships laid out by Williams.
My one real quarrel with this production is that the costumes by Rafael Jaen are neither here nor there. Nothing much evokes either the threadbare making do of the 1930s or the inappropriate recycling of stylish frocks from Amanda's more distant youth.
The other design elements successfully serve to create "illusion that has the appearance of truth," as promised by Tom at the top of the play. Janie Howland's set is an alley in St. Louis with a simple representation of furniture and a few carefully chosen props. Scott Pinkney's lighting design and Jeremy Wilson's sound design serve Tom's selective memory well and manage to make the long-absent father an unforgettable presence in this unforgettable production.
The Glass Menagerie now through February 5th at the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St. (Copley Square), Boston, Mass (in the YWCA Building.) Performances are: Wednesday & Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 4pm and 8pm, Sunday at 3pm and Wednesday at 2pm (January 12th and February 2nd ONLY.) There is an audience "talk back" following the Sunday, January 23rd performance. Ticket prices are $19 - 43 depending on performance time and seat location with a $10 Student rush tickets available 1/2 hour prior to each performance. Parking is available at the Back Bay Garage (enter from Clarendon St. between Boylston and St. James Ave.) for $6 after 5pm weekdays and all day on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at the Lyric Stage box office (617) 437-7172 or online at www.lyricstage.com.