Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The Glass Menagerie
Tom Wingfield (Sean Lally) is a frustrated young man living with his mother and sister in a small, rundown apartment. Although he dreams of being a writer, Tom works long hours in a shoe factory to support his family. Tom's mother Amanda (Krista Apple) has been utterly devoted to her children ever since her husband abandoned them 16 years ago, but she is still fixated on the glory days of her youth in the old south. Amanda wants her children to have all the comforts of her erstwhile youth, but her devotion and encouragement come off as little more than incessant nagging. Left with a limp from a childhood illness, Amanda's sweet daughter Laura (Hannah Brannau) has become increasingly isolated from the outside world. The Wingfields' little world is turned upside-down when Tom brings Jim O'Connor (Frank Jimenez) over for dinner.
Lally's laidback charm keeps Tom sympathetic even as we watch him make a litany of bad decisions. Krista Apple is magnificent as misguided mother Amanda, who is painfully overbearing but always coming from a place of love. Hannah Brannau brings a marvelous complexity to the role of Laura. Brannau convincingly conveys Laura's crushing self-doubt and natural mildness, but also suggests a level of insight that makes her situation all the more painful. Frank Jimenez is outstanding as affable dinner guest Jim O'Connor. Jimenez brings an authenticity to O'Connor's fortitude and ambition that throws the woeful inadequacy of the Wingfields' coping mechanisms into sharp relief.
Nolan has wisely declined to frame any character as a villain, and the talented cast effectively conveys the sense that they are each struggling to do the best they can. It makes Williams' already powerful play even more poignant. Thom Weaver's thoughtfully designed set and Olivera Gajic's pitch-perfect period costumes further elevate this excellent production.
Nolan's classic but excellent interpretation of The Glass Menagerie is everything Philadelphia has come to expect from the Arden. As strangely extraordinary and breathtakingly relatable as every family, these Wingfields as intriguing as ever. I highly recommend visiting this family for yourself.
The Glass Menagerie runs through November 6, 2022, at Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit ardentheatre.org or call the box office at 215-922-1122. Expected runtime is two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Director: Terrence J. Nolen