The Western Sun

Taking a look back at the “Glass Menagerie”

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Carolyn Feres is Laura Wingfield in the Glass Menagerie

Carolyn Feres is Laura Wingfield in the Glass Menagerie

Golden West Theater

Golden West Theater

Carolyn Feres is Laura Wingfield in the Glass Menagerie

Spencer Otte, Entertainment Editor

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In 1688, physician Johannes Hofer sought to diagnose a specific ailment plaguing Swiss mercenaries. The term he coined was “nostalgia,” which he believed to be a neurological disease brought about by demonic activity. Later, in the 19th century, it was thought to be a byproduct of depression.

In 1944, playwright Tennessee Williams characterized nostalgia as both an ineluctable phantom, a painful reminder of what once was, but also as a vital means of escape from the harsh realities of daily life. This month, Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” was brought to the Golden West stage by director Tom Amen.

One of Williams’ more overtly autobiographical works, The Glass Menagerie is set in St. Louis during the height of the Great Depression. The story follows Tom, who works in a shoe factory but has greater dreams of being a poet. He lives with Amanda, his mother, a former Southern belle, and Laura, his painfully shy and disabled sister. Throughout the play, each of them finds solace in delusion – Tom, through alcohol and movies, Amanda, with the memory of her past, and Laura, with a collection of delicate, glass animals.

Matthew Cobb once again returns to the stage in the starring role of Tom, depicting a man who longs for more than his home can offer, but is tethered by family. As Amanda Wingfield, Carrie Vinikow vacillates wonderfully between an overbearing and delusional mother to one that, despite all her faults, deeply loves and cares for her children. Carolyn Feres brings out the sad, delicate nature of Laura, playing up the conflict between her shyness and her desire to live up to her mother’s expectations. Alex Jean plays Jim O’Connor, the only other character in the play. While he only arrives in the final scene, it is a moving performance as he helps Laura through her psychological issues, only to dash her hopes minutes later.

William’s original direction of the apartment in which the play is set was exaggerated and dark, and scenic designer Tim Mueller succeeds in this with a German-expressionist inspired set full of sharp angles and crooked picture frames. The fantastical element is aided by the work of lighting designer Crystal Shomph. The stage behind the performers is a vast void, and images relating to the story are projected onto the walls of the apartment.
“The Glass Menagerie” ran from Feb. 16 through Feb. 25. The next performance on the Golden West stage is “The Little Dog Laughed,” which opens April 6.

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Taking a look back at the “Glass Menagerie”