In Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Amanda Wingfield laments, “Things have a way of turning out so badly.” While that might be true for the Wingfields, things are turning out wonderfully for audiences at Lyric’s excellent production of this classic drama.
Director Michael Baron stages with academic faithfulness to the script, and that’s meant as a high compliment. Menagerie is a “memory play” and cautionary tale, so when Tom Wingfield (Alex J. Enterline) begins his narration wearing a watch cap and peacoat with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder, he’s already the merchant seaman that he aspired to be, with memories he cannot escape by sailing the seven seas.
Dawn Drake’s set and John Fowler’s lighting strike the right balance between the real and surreal. The Wingfields’ worse-for-wear apartment serves as both a prison and a port in a storm. For Tom, it’s a stifling trap, but for his sister, Laura, whose life is adrift, it’s a refuge.
In a nice touch, Baron uses Paul Bowles’ original score for the play. The tinny recording of the impressionistic music evokes the play’s 1930s setting.
Helen Hedman’s Amanda runs on the fumes of her youth as a Southern belle, when she supposedly attracted scads of “gentleman callers.” Amanda is resilient, and Hedman switches from despondency to charm with ease.
Lindsay Pittman is fine in the challenging role of Laura, showing a range of emotions and suffering in silence much of the time.
And Laura’s gentleman caller, Jim, played by Dallas Lish, keenly captures the character’s bonhomie and insecurities.
Enterline won’t make you forget David Mays as Tom for CityRep in 2008, but he begins and ends the play on strong notes. You feel Tom’s frustration being ensnared in a dead-end job as a shoe-warehouse worker when he’d rather be writing poetry.