“Glass Menagerie” at Babcock this weekend

By By Jerome Burns

By Jerome Burns

This Weekend, Babcock Theater presents “The Glass Menagerie,” by Tennessee Williams. For those looking for special effects and adventure, turn back now-there is no place for such things in a raw, visceral drama such as this.

“The Glass Menagerie” begins with the narrator, Tom Wingfield (played by Troy Deutsch), spinning his life story from the fire escape of his weathered apartment. As the stage lights come up, the elegant set is revealed, and two characters share the stage-Tom’s mother Amanda (played by Sarah Shippobotham), who will soon prove to be the play’s most over-the-top character, and Tom’s sister Laura (played by Mindy Dillard), a shy and slightly odd young woman battling an inferiority complex.

Tom and his mother clash, but as powerful and violent as some of these confrontations become, they don’t seem to be solving the problem that hangs ominously over the Wingfield’s home. A fourth character in the play, Mr. Wingfield, Tom’s father, is only seen in a photograph against the wall, though he is referenced many times throughout the play.

As the plot evolves, it becomes clear that Tom is anxious to leave his family for a life of adventure, or simply a life without his family.

His mother, however, senses his intentions and is bent on preventing Tom’s departure. She accuses him of being exactly like his father, and marks him as one quick to abandon his familial obligations.

Amanda pleads with Tom, claiming that she cannot support herself and Laura without him. When it becomes apparent that not even these heartfelt pleas are affecting Tom, she offers him an ultimatum: If he can find a gentleman caller to replace him and support his mother and sister, then he can leave with her blessing.

Enter the physical manifestation of all that the family dreams for, the energetic James Delaney O’Connor (played by Nicholas Dunn).

Tom and James work together at the warehouse, despite James’ high school successes and Tom’s lack of ambition. Tom manages to coax James into coming to his home under the pretense of a home-cooked meal with no strings attached.

Well, the evening proves to be a bit more exciting than that. Amanda sashays about the room in an ancient cotillion gown, harping on Tom for his atrocious manners and attempting to force her daughter on the would-be gentleman caller.

Each of the characters is searching for one certain something that is absent from his/her melancholy lives. What ensues is a play of contorted memories, whimsical dreams, and a hard and heavy reality that burdens all that seek refuge within its hollow realm.

Babcock’s acting is skilled, the play’s plot simple and heavy, and the set rich and real. “The Glass Menagerie” is an unconventional piece, forgoing the hype and technological complexities that run rampant in more modern plays, but bringing with it a dark charm and an uneasy sense of realism.

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