SUMMIT, NJ – A haunting, memorable play, “The Glass Menagerie,” is given a warm, caring production at The Summit Playhouse. Under the direction of Arnold Buchiane, this Tennessee Williams play (his first notable success) weaves the story of a son, a mother and a daughter in their small shabby apartment in a corner of St. Louis in the 1930s.
Gus Ibranyi as the son who wants to escape the dreariness of working in a warehouse with dreams of adventure. So he goes to the movies every night, where he can transport himself to a glamorous world far from real life. His mother, (Gloria Lamoureuux) recalls her days as a southern belle with seventeen beaus and that is her illusion. Her daughter (Emily Miller) has glass figurines which fill her life. She says her mother calls them her glass menagerie, which fill her life. The one outsider is the gentleman caller (Anthony Bentrovato), whom the son invites for dinner. His mother has deluded herself into thinking that this young man may be a match for her shy daughter.
When the gentleman caller finally arrives in Act II, he does indeed draw the daughter out of her shell for a time. In fact, he is somewhat attracted to her, or maybe just flirting. But then he realizes he doesn’t want to be caught up in this needy family scenario. So he breaks the news that he has a girlfriend, Betty, and they’re to be married in June. We’re not quite sure if this is true or merely a means to extricate himself. At any rate, one more illusion is shattered.
Although the playbill lists the cast as The Mother, Her Son and Her Daughter, in Williams’ script they do have names: Amanda Wakefield, Tom and Laura. The gentleman caller is Jim O’Connor, definitely referred to in the dialogue.
The play is handled with such sensitivity that you can’t help but be caught up in their fragile world. Lamoureux has just the right mix of busybody interference with her “rise and shine” every morning to her son. Ibranyi is the narrator and, no matter how far he travels, he still pictures his quiet sister wherever he goes. You can feel for him as he is torn between an obligation to his family and a desire to be free. Emily Miller as the daughter perfectly projects the sensitive girl who is embarrassed by her limp. Her mother refuses to call her crippled. Bentrovato conveys the young man who was a star in high school, but so far hasn’t lived up to that promise. But he’s determined, working at the warehouse but going to night school for public speaking and radio electronics. When he tells Laura that all she needs is confidence and to get over her inferiority complex, you can see that words aren’t enough to help her in what she sees as a terrifying world.
With costumes by Ann Lowe, set design by Gordon Wiener, and lighting by Ben Wolf, “The Glass Menagerie” illuminates the mysticism of this story. Williams’s writing has a way of helping us accept our own failures, but with a poetic longing to find beauty in small moments.
“The Glass Menagerie” continues at The Summit Playhouse, located at 10 New England Avenue in Summit, through March 16. For tickets, call 908-273-2192 or visit TheSummitPlayhouse.org.