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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Glass Menagerie’ provides powerful look at devastated family

Published: December 7, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

Last weekend, The Brandeis Theater Company performed Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”: the story of a family devastated by a runaway father as his wife, son and daughter attempt to cope with his absence—and one another’s presence. Held at the Merrick Theater in Spingold, the performance was directed by Paula Plum and stage managed by Rachel Huvard ’14.

Set “now and in the past” according to the playbill, “The Glass Menagerie” explores Amanda’s (Ellyn Getz ’13) obsession with finding “gentlemen callers” for her daughter, Laura (Corrie Legge ’14) while berating her son Tom (Justy Kosek ’14) for being selfish even despite his working a menial job to support the family. As the show progresses, Laura finally receives a gentleman caller, a friend of her brother’s from work, Jim (Ahmed Kouddous ’14), who visits the family for dinner in the dramatic second act.

Due to the cast’s small size, each player was pressured to offer an exceptional performance. But each actor held up his or her part of the deal. Getz ’13 personified Amanda’s eccentric Southern mannerisms well. And she portrayed her character as a loving mother and implacable taskmaster, set on convincing her children to form their lives according to her desires, regardless of their thoughts. This was most visible in Legge’s performance, as she offered the audience a battered and broken girl driven to appease her mother. The only thing she wanted to do was play with her glass collection: the eponymous menagerie.

Contrary to this acceptance, Kosek ’14 displays considerable rebellion against the world Amanda tries to craft for him, exemplified in his often sarcastic tone and irate attitude when speaking to her.

The best acting of all, however, came from Kouddous. His portrayal of stereotypical American, Joe, came with arrogance and self-assuredness. His polite manner and natural charisma showed, though, and made him the most easily likeable character of all, despite the billing.

Although not portrayed by an actor, the missing father, through a portrait hanging over the dining room table, served as an omnipresent specter of the abandonment and betrayal that continually haunted the family. Even as Tom continues to debate what to do with his life, he compares himself to his father and is forced to decide whether that is a livable or regrettable lifestyle.

Designers constructed the show’s technical aspects, including set, lighting and sound, largely free of glitches. Each aspect of the set was at one point well-used by the actors. There was a working lamp sitting directly in front of the audience’s right, and upon a wooden table, the small and frail glass menagerie placed in front of the audience on the left.

The set reflected the result of Amanda’s upper-class tastes, yet it competed with the realities of having one minimum-wage worker in the family. Fancy lace tablecloths contrasted a couch obviously older and worse for wear. The smaller, intimate nature of the Merrick Theater itself gave the actors’ portrayals even more credibility. In fact, the actors were not afraid to take advantage of direct interactions with the audience: before the show began, Amanda’s character made a personal request to the audience that they turn off their cell phones.

Strong lighting also contributed to the set’s advantageous design. Never was a character obscured from the audience, and the apartment’s terrace (the rear portion of the set, separated from the apartment itself by curtains representing a door) was always visible when characters were conversing.

As microphones weren’t an issue in the theater, the majority of the sound came from the scene changes, in which music composed of chimes and whistles would play. This gave the audience an eerie feeling, especially as they watched the actors move in the darkness to prepare the next scene.