A “classic” is defined as something judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.
In theater, it can be a mark of a quality script that is at the mercy of the artists producing it. I’ve seen plenty of non-classic productions of classic plays. The Glass Menagerie, running at Sebastopol’s Main Stage West through March 5, is not one of those.
The Tennessee Williams memory play about the Wingfield family was written more than 75 years ago. While it may be draped in the trappings of its time, its look at the illusions we create to get through life, and the pain and regret that comes with the shattering of those illusions, still resonates today.
The type of run-down apartment where the fire escape is the means of entering and exiting is the home of faded Southern belle Amanda Wingfield (Sheri Lee Miller), her son Tom (Keith Baker) and her daughter Laura (Ivy Rose Miller). Tom spends his days toiling at a warehouse and his nights at the “movies” dreaming of getting out and living an adventurous life. Laura, a fragile girl, lives an isolated life spent playing records on the Victrola and maintaining her collection of glass figurines. Amanda is worried about Laura’s future and harangues Tom about bringing “gentlemen callers” in from his work. Tom acquiesces and invites his co-worker Jim (Damion Lee Matthews) over for dinner. What seems like a promising possibility quickly fades into harsh reality.
Williams’ characters are bucket-list roles for actors, and director Elizabeth Craven has four actors, including a newcomer to the area, at the top of their game. Mother and daughter are played by mother and daughter Sheri Lee and Ivy Rose Miller, which can’t help but add a deeper dimension to the characterizations. Baker channels Philip Seymour Hoffman in physical demeanor, vocal intonation and stage presence while newcomer Matthews expertly threads the needle with Jim, a character who has illusions of his own.
I’m always impressed by the sets placed on the tiny Sebastopol stage, and David Lear and director Craven’s design manages to make the space feel larger and yet claustrophobic at the same time. The period costume design—especially Amanda’s “gown,” by Adrianna Gutierrez—provided strong support to the characters and the story.
A sense of regret runs thick through The Glass Menagerie. It is not a sense I felt after attending this production.