Tom Wingfield is a restless dreamer stuck in a warehouse job. He wants action and adventure but instead lives with his painfully shy sister and overbearing mother in The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams' classic drama, recently presented at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre.
Tom (Curtis Billings) often escapes his family, telling them he's "going to the movies." His sister Laura (Lucy Faust) retreats inward and has become so reclusive that she's lied to their mother Amanda (Annalee Jefferies) about dropping out of school because of anxiety and embarrassment.
Menagerie bears many resemblances to Williams' own life. His father was a traveling shoe salesman and his mother was puritanical. His sister Rose dealt with severe emotional issues. Tom is in some ways similar to the playwright, and Billings brilliantly manages his complexity. Tom doesn't feel like he's being true to himself, and his mother criticizes him often.
Menagerie is a memory play — a term coined by Williams — and Tom breaks the fourth wall to give context and resolution to the audience. He also says the narrative will be sentimental and underscored by whimsical music. James Bevins' lighting and Kevin O'Donnell's sound design make the work feel fresh.
Amanda is crushed when she discovers Laura's deceptions about skipping school. Jefferies shines as a feisty yet refined matriarch. She plays up the melodrama but knows when to back off. Amanda is determined to help Laura find security by procuring a husband. She conspires with Tom to draw the household's first ever "gentleman caller," Tom's friend Jim O'Connor (Kevin Rothlisberger). The formality of the work's setting is outdated, but Williams' sensitivity to human emotions keeps it palpable.
The Glass Menagerie is a brilliant play about complicated family dynamics, and under Maxwell Williams' direction, this Le Petit production highlights why it stands the test of time.